The final inning of the annual softball game between the Pasadena Police Department and the Community couldn’t have been scripted with a more climactic ending.
Pasadena native Michael Harrison, 29, a member of the community squad, belted a two-run triple in his team’s final at-bat to give the Community a 13-12 come-from-behind victory over Pasadena PD.
The annual Police vs. Community softball game, played July 10 at Robinson Park, serves annually as the official kickoff to Pasadena’s Parks After Dark program, featuring an array of youth and family activities held Thursdays through Saturdays through Aug. 10 at various parks around the city.
Activities at local area parks include sports leagues, fitness classes, arts and crafts, enrichment classes, recreational swimming, movies, and concerts in the park.
“It’s just a good thing to do for the community,” said Harrison, a teacher, who was playing in his second community-police softball game in the past three years. “I see everybody enjoy themselves. That is what it all about. It’s a good way for all of us to connect and keep the community strong.”
The games have gone down to the wire in recent years, with the police winning in their final at bat in last year’s game and the community getting a walk-off victory in the 2017 contest.
But regardless of which team wins or loses, community building is the true purpose of the game.
Sgt. Tony Russo, who has captained the Pasadena PD team since the start of Parks after Dark several years ago, said the event enables the community to see police officers in a completely different light, while giving the police a chance for a more intimate relationship with their community.
“You see the same faces so you start building the relationships,” Russo said.” And then you see them when you are out on your shift. It becomes a really good comradery building engagement with the community. They get to see us in a humanizing fashion. When they see you on a call, they are less likely to see the just badge, the uniform, the gun and the authority. They’re like, ‘that’s the guy I watch play softball.’”
Despite being the only senior citizen on the field, community member Alan McLin, 68, got two hits in two at-bats.
A Pasadena resident since 1963, said it he gets a good feeling from watching the younger players participate in the game.
“People get to see the Pasadena Police as not just a regular police department,” McLin said. “Everybody is just another human being out here today.”
For Pasadena Police Chief John Perez, the softball game is a chance to re-connect with residents, many who he’s known for years.
Perez, who joined Pasadena PD as a cadet in 1985, said sports has always been the perfect vehicle for folks from different factions to bond.
“Sports does that for us in society so it does it at the local level and in the community,” Perez said. “More of this is good for everybody. It’s just a great way to start off the summer.”