CLEARWATER – Local public safety officers will don gloves and batter up Saturday for some good-natured rivalry – all for a good cause.
The 14th annual Charity Softball Challenge will kick off at 3:30 p.m. at Spectrum Field in Clearwater.
Public safety officers and dispatchers with the Clearwater Police Department will face off against officers with the Largo Police Department and Pinellas County State Attorney Office. The game will be followed by a matchup between the Clearwater Threshers and the Palm Beach Cardinals at 6:15 p.m.
This year’s game will benefit two longtime Tampa Bay officers who are both battling colon cancer.
Retired officer Gary Gibson dedicated nearly 30 years of his life as a law enforcement officer in Pinellas County, serving roughly 20 of those years as a homicide detective for the St. Petersburg Police Department and four years as a State Attorney investigator. Gibson was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2015.
David Doyle, a retired officer with the Clearwater Police Department, began his career in 1985 in the department’s communications center and retired 22 years later in 2010 as a supervisor. Doyle was diagnosed with both colon and liver cancer last year and is currently undergoing aggressive chemotherapy treatments twice a month.
Event organizer and Clearwater Lt. Jon Connor said the event has always been popular and fills a need within the law enforcement community.
“Unfortunately, within in the public safety community, there are plenty of needy people,” Connor said. “There’s always someone facing adversity in their lives. It’s just the way life is now and we do our best to reach out to them.
“We never have problems finding someone in need,” Connor continued.
Now in its 14th year, Connor said the softball game has evolved into something of a celebration of life for those honored.
“To me, it’s more about having friends and family come out and show their support,” Connor said. “The games have come to be more about that – it’s not about winning or losing.”
For the first time since it began, this year will feature co-ed teams, with women hitting the field on both sides.
“We thought it’d be really cool to try that out this year,” Connor said.
The cost to attend the softball game, $20, includes admittance to the Threshers game as well as “all-you-can-eat” from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Items included will be traditional ball park fare, such as hamburgers, cheeseburgers, peanuts, popcorn, chips, ice cream, soft drinks and bottled water.
The event will also include children’s activities and a silent auction.
Tickets may be purchased at the gate or prior to the game by calling Mike Blickensdorf at 810-955-2237.
Logan Mosby is editor of the Clearwater Beacon. She can be reached at lmosby@TBNweekly.com or by calling 727-397-5563, ext. 304.