Police, fire chiefs battle for bragging rights, trophy at annual kickball game

Sept. 12, 2012 at 4:12 a.m.

Fire Chief Taner Drake and Police Chief J.J. Craig   square off in a pre-game stare down. Proceeds from the kickball game between the two departments will benefit the United Way.

Fire Chief Taner Drake and Police Chief J.J. Craig square off in a pre-game stare down. Proceeds from the kickball game between the two departments will benefit the United Way.   Frank Tilley for The Victoria Advocate

The Victoria Police Department has lost the past three years.

Now, with their reputation at stake, Police Chief J.J. Craig said it is time for a change.

"We actually recognized it as a weakness, so we have added kickball to our police academy so that we make sure we represent appropriately from now on," Craig said jokingly about the Fourth Annual Battle of the Badges against the fire department.

In all seriousness, though, Craig said he has made changes to the team after last year's loss.

"That was my first week on the job, and I had to endure that kind of pain," Craig said, shaking his head. "I thought at that moment in time there had to be some changes in next year's game.

"So I mandated everyone who played on that team, like myself, to walk around with a kickball the rest of the year. They will remember the loss, the pain and agony and not want to go through that again," Craig joked.

Fire Chief Taner Drake, who had been with the department for three months when they played in 2011, said his team excelled in the kickball challenge.

"I caught a pop up right in front of the home plate, maybe six or eight feet, that the police chief kicked," Drake said laughing, describing his favorite moment of the game.

Drake said the firefighters do have a secret to their success.

"It is all in the way we hire personnel. Most agencies do fitness evaluations and psychologic evaluations. We do kickball evaluations, so that we can ensure we have that steady flow of great talent," Taner said in jest.

In addition to the battle between departments, however, the game also kicks off the city of Victoria's United Way campaign, with all ticket proceeds benefiting the Victoria County United Way.

Clifford Grimes, executive director of the Victoria County United Way, said the event is important for the community.

"We planned this event to have fun, but also to recognize and to thank those who serve our city and our county," Grimes said.

In 2011, the event raised $1,167.50. This year, Jennifer Sourdellia, the city's communications assistant, said they hope to raise between $1,500 and $2,000.

She said they want a larger crowd on Saturday since the event is not competing with Friday night football games, as in years past.

Sourdellia said there will be concessions, beer sells, entertainment for kids and covered seating in case of rain.

While Drake and Craig said competition is fierce, the primary purpose of the game is to raise money for Victoria County United Way.

"It is all in good fun," Drake said. "For firefighters and police officers, they work on the same scenes. They all root for each other. They have all got each other's back. So this is just a fun thing to get out there and have a little friendly competition between the two forces. But at the end of the day, we are all still friends."

Still, Craig said he would just as soon not have to present Taner the winner's trophy again.

"When I had to give him the winner's trophy, I thought that was the worst part of the game," Craig said. "I had to stand there in front of his guys and actually hand over the winner's trophy, and I figured, from now on, I want to change the result of that score."

Drake, however, said history has a way of repeating itself.



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