By BEN TINSLEY
GEORGE WEST, TEXAS – The state troopers got their mojo back—big time—at Ox Miller Field this week.
Officers with the Texas Department of Public Safety soundly defeated the George West Longhorns, 17 to 3, during a much-anticipated Thursday night rematch game. The sport was switched from basketball to softball.
This was the second game in which seasoned law enforcement officers (based in South Texas) went head-to-head with George West ISD high school seniors in their physical prime.
But Thursday night’s DPS victory was a far cry from the previous March 26 basketball game. In that groundbreaking match, the DPS officers were losing by such a large margin that the George West crowd, sensing an underdog, actually started to root for them.
DPS ultimately lost that basketball game to the Longhorns 52 to 33. That previous game attracted hundreds of fans and raised a lot of money for the Boys and Girls Club of Live Oak County, Texas DPS Cpl. Raul Garcia said.
But the idea of DPS officers playing sports such as basketball, softball or football against well-trained high school students is far too unique to stop with just one game, officials agreed.
So, a rematch was planned.
Thursday’s game was nothing like the previous one. DPS troopers came to the field Thursday eager to regain what they lost back in March.
The 7 p.m. game— which even Live Oak County Sheriff Larry Busby attended—lasted a little over an hour and a half. It involved superb batting from the DPS countered by excellent field play from the Longhorns.
Longhorn Leeroy Molina Jr.’s performance was particularly inspiring. While playing second base, he caught a smashing line drive without even blinking.
“That was a heck of a catch,” observed GW baseball coach Chuck Pawelek after the game. “I also noticed the DPS shortstop, Raul Garcia, and the first baseman, Robert Montalvo, made great plays, too.”
There was even a grand slam—of sorts—by southpaw DPS Trooper Robert Montalvo, who hit one over the fence and brought at least two other players home toward the end of the game.
“It was a three-run home run, so I know there were at least two people on base,” Trooper Montalvo said with a smile. “I’d been trying all day to hit it like that, and I finally got it. It was a perfect pitch, and the wind really helped me.”
Also of note was Longhorn Erin Snider’s performance as catcher and while batting. (She was the only female in Thursday’s game.) Additionally, there was Longhorn Kody Mircovich, who delivered excellent field play as well.
It was a wacky game from the start. Halfway through the fifth inning, a car alarm went off, putting the game on “pause” while the driver of the car fished his keys out of his pockets. Just as he reached them and prepared to approach the parking lot, the alarm stopped of its own accord.
Coach Pawelek was tapped to be umpire because … there really was no one else. As the coach made calls, his players switched field positions a few times—which afforded Molina the leeway to catch a few more pop flies when he transferred from second base to center field.
Most people agreed that the Longhorns’ shift from their regular baseball playing to softball might have knocked them off their game a tad.
“Really, I think the seniors had a time with the slow pitch of the ball,” Coach Pawelek said. “You really have to wait on it.”
DPS Trooper Gabriel Llanas said the Longhorns, nonetheless, were excellent opponents.
“Luckily, we have been playing softball together a little bit longer, and they’ve been mostly playing baseball,” Llanas said. “But they certainly made up for it in youth.”
The bleachers were fairly well occupied Thursday although the numbers of donated dollars collected didn’t come close to that previous game.
“It was very exciting,” said Mable Humphrey, president of the Boys and Girls Club of Live Oak County. “There are quite a few people here tonight, although we kind of had short notice. … The next time we do this we’ll get the word out. The crowd should easily double in size.”
Donations to the Boys and Girls Club weren’t as high Thursday as the $3,000 collected during the March basketball game, but they were still very generous, the Boys and Girls Club president said.
“We raised $487 this time,” she said.
A possible second rematch between the two teams—this time in flag football—could possibly happen as early as football season, officials said.
If it continues to be successful, it is possible that DPS troopers might try to engage players for similar fundraising events in areas such as Three Rivers.
Ben Tinsley is a reporter for The Progress newspaper in Three Rivers. He can be contacted by email at email@example.com or by phone at 361-786-3022. Tinsley can also be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/BenTinsley, Google at http://plus.google.com/+BenTinsley or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ben.tinsley.12.