Members of the South Salt Lake Police Department responded to a scene Saturday afternoon involving a "knock-down, drag-out" game of baseball.
Three teams from the South Salt Lake Children's Baseball League - Sluggers, Wolves and Raptors - challenged officers to the first annual Cops vs. Kids baseball game, a friendly slug fest at Woodrow Wilson Elementary, 2825 S. 200 East. And, the officers gladly stepped up to the plate.The first game between the younger Sluggers and Wolves ended in a 13-0 "slaughter" of the Cops team. The older Raptors took it easier on the Cops' "bruised egos and aging bodies," beating them 3-0.
But the competition of the day wasn't why everyone showed up.
"This is a great thing that everyone is getting involved with," said Capt. Beau Babka. "This event was set up to give kids something positive and pro-active to help them really change their lives. They'll probably remember this day for a long time, as will we."
Sgt. Joe Bennett said that none of the officers participating in the game was ordered to be in attendance. "When we sent out e-mails about this game, nine-tenths of the officers volunteered their time to be here."
Bennett explained the rules of the game before the first pitch was thrown out by South Salt Lake Mayor Randy Fitts. With the officers being twice the size of their competition, he said he wanted to make sure the playing field was level.
The Cops had to sit on a bar stool when up to bat. If the person batting stood up in the middle of the pitch to hit, they were automatically called out.
Cops couldn't run from base to base if the batter was fortunate enough to connect with a pitch. A child-size scooter or bike was placed at every base for the officers to use to run the bases, switching at every base they came to.
When it was the officers' turn to take the field, they were given a taste of their own medicine. Players on the field had their strong arm handcuffed and shackled to their waist, "severely handicapping" them from throwing the ball, Babka said.
"The best part of the game was watching the Cops throw the ball with the handcuffs on," said 9-year-old Jerry Carter of the Sluggers. "But even if they didn't have to do all that stuff, we'd still beat `em."
Jerry's sister, 10-year-old Jessica, particularly enjoyed watching grown men and women run the bases on scooters. "One of the guys was going so fast and out of control, he blew the front tire out when he slid into second base," Jessica said with an amusing grin on her face.
Slugger coach Boyd Marshall said his team had been looking forward to this day for a long time.
"The kids have been really excited for this game," Marshall said. "The best part about it is it gives the kids a chance to get to know the police, instead of being afraid of them. It is just good for the whole community."
Marshall said that this was the first year South Salt Lake has had its own children's baseball league. In the past, kids who wanted to play had to go to one of the leagues in Sugar House.
Marshall, who is also on the City Council, gave credit to the police department, which spearheaded the league. "When the league first started, we only had a few players show up. When word got out that we had it up and going, we eventually grew to four teams and 60 kids participating," Marshall said. "It does great things for the kids and the community. Everyone has loved having the league around."
Babka said he was impressed with the turnout and the support community members have given to the league throughout the year.
"We needed something like this to get a positive activity for the kids to do," he said. "You just can't explain how much fun we've had."