Police, firemen play; Ronald McDonald House benefits

Originally Posted Online: July 20, 2014, 7:43 pm
Last Updated: July 20, 2014, 7:52 pm
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By Jonathan Turner, jturner@qconline.com

DAVENPORT -- Typically, police officers and firefighters respond to life-and-death situations. On Sunday, roughly 30 men from Davenport and Rock Island's departments had fun playing each other in softball at Modern Woodmen Park -- also for a cause that deals with life and death.

Members of each city's fire and police department played a 75-minute, 9-inning game before Sunday's River Bandits game, with Rock Island emerging victorious, 7-5, and $4 of each ticket sold will go to the Ronald McDonald House in Iowa City. The nationwide charity offers a home-away-from-home for families so they can stay close to their hospitalized child at little or no cost.

Blake Humphrey, a Rock Island firefighter who organized the fundraiser, said the cities' departments have played three games over the past four years as part of Red, White & Boom, but this was the first time proceeds went to charity.

"Scott County and Rock Island County residents are big users of the Ronald McDonald House, which made it even more important. This way, the charity serves both sides of the river," he said, noting K & V Steel and Quad City Barbers gave large donations.

Jon Briggs, a lieutenant with Rock Island fire, said his family has used the Ronald McDonald House many times. His daughter Hailey, 9, was diagnosed with brain cancer three years ago, and while she was treated in Chicago, their family used the house there. They also have used the one in Iowa City since she goes there for tests every six months.

Hailey had two surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation. "It's definitely a little more for us," Mr. Briggs, a 14-year fire department veteran, said of Sunday's benefit game. "It's a great place to play."

Even though there was a good-natured rivalry between the two 15-member teams (Davenport wore white jerseys as the home team, and Rock Island blue), Mr. Briggs said: "We're all brothers -- we all trained together; we all know each other. This is just a lot of fun for all of us."

The Rock Island firefighters wore 26 on the back of their jerseys -- for their fire union number, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 26. Davenport's fire union local is 17 and they had that on their uniforms. The police officers each wore 50, the code for officers.

"We're definitely out to win. That makes it a true rivalry," said Chris Logan of Davenport, a seven year fire department veteran. "A good number of us play quite a bit of games. Rock Island has won the games up to this point."

"It's pretty unique to play on this field. How often do you get to play in a professional stadium?" said James Quick, a Davenport police 9-year veteran, who got on base on a fielder's choice and scored. "We both want to win." He noted Davenport police and fire play each other at Lindsay Park each summer.

"Any time you're looking for participation, having fun and doing it for a good cause, it's always worthwhile," said Rock Island Fire Chief Jim Fobert (who wore number 1). "I look at it as physical fitness, staying in shape, having fun while you're doing it. It's a way to relax and bond. It's pretty competitive."

A 29-year department veteran, the chief hit a double and scored a run. He plays in a senior softball league every Wednesday night at Greenvalley Park in Moline.

"This is great. The atmosphere is what you're looking for -- a top-notch facility," Chief Fobert said of the Bandits home park in its first summer with the Ferris wheel behind left field. "It's a good sport, a good game."

Last year, the departments took part in a ceremonial first pitch during Red, White & Boom, at the Bandits game.

In the top of the fifth inning Sunday, Rock Island's Phil Ledbetter (a five-year police veteran) thrilled the crowd and his team with a home run over the left-field fence, which hopped and hit the bottom of the Ferris wheel. It was the first round-tripper in the departments' series.

"It was a very good feeling. We've talked about since we've been playing out here, somebody doing it," Mr. Ledbetter said "The last time we all played, I hit on top of the left-center field fence, and it came in, it was a live ball. I really thought I had it that time. I was really hoping I'd get another chance to do it this time."

Rock Island firefighter Justin Holmes put his team over the top in the top of the ninth, with a two-run double. "It felt really good," he said.

And his father and two-year-son were in the stands to cheer him on. Tom Holmes was visiting from Dubuque, playing with his 2-year-old grandson, Cooper. "It's a lot of fun," Tom Holmes said, adding he enjoys coming to see the River Bandits.

The winning team gets a traveling trophy, and 7-year-old Josh Steines (son of Rock Island police Lt. Tim Steines) got to pose with it for a team photo after the game. He got to watch the game from Rock Island's dugout, wearing his Q-C Hitmen uniform.

"It's pretty cool," Josh said of being on the field. "I'm the bat boy, too."


Local events heading

  Today is Friday, Sept. 19, the 262nd day of 2014. There are 103 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: Charles M. Osborn of this city, a lawyer of prominence, who voted for Lincoln in 1860 is now out strong for McClellan and will take the stump for him.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The George Fleming company had begun its dried fruit packing in a branch plant on 16th Street, Rock Island, employing nearly a hundred workers.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The cornerstone of the new Eagles home was laid. Building committee members were John Kobeman, Fred Ehmke and Frank Wich.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Former Kaiser Wilhelm, in exile, is sad as the Nazis march with communists.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Ninety-two members of the acappella choir at Davenport's West High School today accepted an invitation to perform at the New York World's Fair on June 13, 1965.
1989 -- 25 years ago: A Rock Island woman is one of 50 winners of $10,000 in cash in the Illinois State Lottery's "Celebration "89" instant ticket game. Dawn Loeffler was the third winner to be chosen through daily drawings that began Aug. 28 and will run 50 consecutive days.

(More History)