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Police, firefighter softball game part of Kilgore balloon events

By Richard Yeakley
June 8, 2015 at 7:38 a.m.

Kilgore fire and police department personnel will square off in a softball grudge match this summer when the city welcomes competitors of the Balloon Federation of America's U.S. National Championships.

"The fire department is going to beat the police department, period," said Kilgore Assistant Fire Chief Mike Simmons of the upcoming Guns vs. Hoses match-up.

The contest, which was announced in May, will be one of the fixtures of the second annual Baseball, Balloons and Root Beer event connected with the Great Texas Balloon Race.

"This proved to be a really good creative move from our standpoint," said Kilgore Chamber of Commerce President Cindy Morris. "We developed Baseball, Balloons and Root Beer as a part of the Great Texas Balloon Race. We actually host the pilots and crew members in a hospitality evening. ... Moving this out to Driller Park, it was just a great move for us to do that and to create some excitement for the community."

The police versus firefighters event was announced in May at a Kilgore City Council meeting along with a corresponding video promoting the affair.

"We are excited about playing the game. Police and fire always have this small rivalry between us, but in the end we are brothers," Police Chief Todd Hunter said. "At this point, we have our roster and that is as far as we have gone. We will have a few practice games before that maybe.

"After we get through with the fire department, they won't even be able to sit in their La-Z-Boys."

In 2014, the first year of the balloon-centered event, an East Texas Pump Jacks game was the focal point, but the team moved this year to Tyler.

"(The new event) is a definite response. We needed something to happen," Morris said.

Dan Droege, 2015 chairman of the annual ballooning event, praised Kilgore's effort to connect to the race.

"Since we fly over Kilgore on Tuesday and Wednesday morning, we try to do something in Kilgore those nights," he said. "I think everyone enjoyed it immensely. It was one of the largest turnouts of the season for the Pump Jacks."

Simmons said fire crews are taking the July 22 contest seriously.

"There are guys out throwing and hitting the balls. They have a tendency to get pretty competitive. Behind the scenes, there are some guys going to the batting cages and getting their arms ready," Simmons said.

Morris said the two public safety branches used to compete, but that it has not taken place in many years.

In addition to the game, activities will be held in the neighboring park, and the hot air balloonists will do an "all-burn" in the evening following the contest.

Balloons also will be released, Morris said.



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