Iowa firefighters battle police in series of softball games
Money from the games will be used to fund the police department's K-9 unit
By William Smith
The Hawk Eye
BURLINGTON, Iowa — A brightly colored MedForce helicopter descended Saturday morning upon Community Field, but there was no cause for alarm.
The chopper simply was delivering some softballs so Burlington Mayor Shane McCampbell could make the opening pitch in the Boots vs. Badges softball game. The stadium was filled with fans, kids' games and food, and every dollar raised will be used to resurrect the Burlington Police Department's K-9 unit.
"We have pretty much every agency out here," said event organizer and West Burlington firefighter Cale Heitmeier.
The event pitted a team of local firefighters against a team of local police and sheriff’s deputies in a series of three back-to-back-to-back softball games, with the winners receiving a 5-foot-tall traveling trophy.
Heitmeier said there were about 70 players total, which allowed the teams to rotate players during successive games. The teams consisted of members of every police and fire department in Des Moines County, including the Burlington Police Department, the West Burlington Police Department, the Des Moines County Sheriff's Office and fire departments from Burlington, West Burlington, Mediapolis, Danville and Yarmouth. MedForce employees, DesCom dispatchers and Superior Ambulance workers in West Burlington also participated.
Though he was the lead organizer, Heitmeier couldn't resist taking to the field himself.
"Everybody has to have a little fun," he said.
Maj. Dennis Kramer of the Burlington Police Department played in the second game, and was delighted with the weather. The high temperature barely cracked 80 degrees, and there wasn't an angry cloud in sight.
"It's a beautiful day," Kramer said. "I just hope everyone has fun."
The Burlington Police Department decided to reestablish its K-9 unit several months ago, and it will take about $50,000 to get the program going again. Kramer said about $40,000 of that had been raised before the game, though it will take an additional $20,000 to keep the program running for at least five years. Organizers were hoping to raise between $5,000 and $10,000 with the softball games, and a $3,000 check from the Southeast Iowa Property Owners certainly helped with that.
"This gives us a chance to get together with the firefighters and public safety, and to raise money for a good cause," Kramer said.
Attendees were treated to a live K-9 demonstration with trained dogs from Galesburg, Ill., and Knox County, Ill., giving them a sense of what Burlington's K-9 unit will be doing. Burlington Police patrolman Ryan Smith will be the main dog handler when the unit is established, and he's looking forward to it.
"I always wanted to be a K-9 officer growing up," he said. "It's a useful tool to keep the community safe."
Smith played during the first and last game, taking advantage of his high school baseball experience.
"I would have played in college, but I got deployed to Iraq," he said.
Like any game between like-minded but separate agencies, there was quite a bit of pride on the line in the three-game series. Smith said took a backseat to the cause, though.
"We're a big family, and we fight like a family," Smith said. "Firefighters and EMS and police officers go head-to-head, but it's a friendly competition for us."
The local law enforcement team took home the trophy after the series was done, winning the first game 22-9 and the second game 12-8. The firefighters did get a bit of revenge in the end, though, winning the third and final game 5-4.
Burlington firefighter Blake Rahmus, who played short stop in his game, took some solace in that.
"These are the guys we see all the time, so it's good to rub it in a little," he said with a grin.
Despite losing the series, Rahmus is ready to do it again next year — hopefully with a different result.
"It was awesome," he said. "I think it's a great fundraiser. It brings the guys together, and it shows the community we're a bunch of good guys providing a service for the city."
Copyright 2016 The Hawk Eye