Battle of the Badges raises money and honors 9/11 heroes
By Bruce Walton
The sun began to set on the Field of Dreams on Monday evening, the air was cool and the third annual Battle of the Badges softball match between the township fire and police departments was about to begin.
The annual event honors both the anniversary of the sacrifices first responders made after the 9/11 terrorist attack and as a fundraiser for local people in need.
“We enjoy just coming out and having fun,” Sgt. Chuck Hillman said. “The high school band comes out and supports us; the community supports us; it’s a lot of fun.”
This year, the township fire department collected donations for the John Fritz Fund for the family of the fallen Austintown firefighter. Fritz, 48, was found dead at the fire station June 27 after he did not respond to a fire call.
The police department raised funds for police chaplain Larry Johnson, who was diagnosed with brain cancer and is undergoing radiation therapy. The money will go to him and his family to pay for medical expenses.
A bag for donations was available at the event near the catering, provided by Buffalo Wild Wings.
After a performance from the Boardman High School pep band and the presentation of the colors for the national anthem by Boy Scout Troop 54, fire Chief Mark Pitzer spoke before the start of the game. During his career, Pitzer said he had never thought himself as a hero until he saw his fellow firefighters saving lives at an apartment on Glenwood Avenue earlier this spring.
“It did not occur to me until this year, 17 years in my career, that I feel that these people, our firefighters, our police officers, are heroes,” he said.
Although the two departments were facing off each other, firefighter Anthony Yanulaitis said it’s a friendly game to raise money and honor real heroes.
“A lot of communities, you see a lot of police and fire separate at most times,” he said. “But in Boardman, I think it’s pretty cool to see both entities come together for a common cause and celebrate something bigger than us.”
After seven innings, the fire department won 4-2. The donations will be counted and announced later this week.