Friendly Rivals: Policemen, Firemen Face Off in CHaD Benefit Ballgame
Lebanon Police Officer Garrett Hubert and Hanover Police Officer Jeff Fleury will be participating in the CHaD Battle of the Badges Baseball Classic in Manchester next month. Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »
West Lebanon — When Jeff Fleury skated for Team Police in the inaugural CHaD Battle of the Badges All-Star Hockey Championship five years ago, he was penalized two minutes for checking a player on the opposing Team Firemen.
When he suits up for Team Police next month, he’ll be asked to hit as much as possible — the baseball, that is.
Fleury is one of four Upper Valley firemen and police officers who will play in the third annual CHaD Battle of the Badges Autumn Baseball Classic at Manchester’s Northeast Delta Dental Stadium. The game, held on the afternoon of Sept. 15 at the home of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, is a fundraiser for special programs and services at Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth.
Combined with the six-year old hockey game — held each March at Manchester’s Verizon Wireless Arena — the Battle of the Badges policemen-vs.-firefighters all-star games have raised more than $1 million for CHaD programs that include the hospital’s injury prevention center, Molly’s Place information resources, a counseling program to prepare patients for hospital procedures and other services.
Fleury, a 19-year veteran and master patrolman with the Hanover Police Department, will join Lebanon Police Officers Garrett Hubert and Nick Alden on Team Police, while Lebanon fireman Jon Copeland will play for Team Firemen. All had to make the team during tryouts at Manchester’s Gill Stadium earlier this year and must raise a minimum of $1,000 for the cause — with the goal of raising much more.
“I’m really hoping to blow that ($1,000 figure) out of the water,” Fluery said during an interview at Sachem Field on Thursday. “This game is really about the kids. I mean, it’s going to be really fun to play against firemen and play on that field, but I’ve been to CHaD and I’ve seen the afflictions these kids deal with and it’s gut-wrenching.”
Each officer and fireman has been partnered with a “CHaD buddy,” a patient who’s been served at the hospital and whom they’ll play for at the game. Fleury has been matched up with 11-year old Bradford, Vt., resident Cooper Simmons, who severely injured both his feet in a tractor accident two years ago. Officers Alden and Hubert have been paired with CHaD patient Griffin Decato, of Lebanon.
Fluery was recruited to try out by Team Police captain Chris Davis, whom he’d worked with previously during a Drug Recognition Expert program. Fleury had to play well to make one of 14 roster spots, which the switch hitter did quite sufficiently during the auditions at Gill.
“I was a shot put and discus thrower in high school, and I hadn’t played baseball since Babe Ruth summer league when I was 17,” said Fleury, 43. “So that was 26 years ago and all I’d done since then is played catch and done batting cages with my son, Mike.
“So I had to go out and buy a bat and start practicing. The tryouts went pretty well. I hit two out of the park. One of the coaches said the second one was foul, but I’m pretty sure it was just to the right of the (left-field) pole.”
Fleury will play left field and wear jersey No. 10 in homage to his favorite childhood player, Hall of Famer Andre Dawson.
Alden, 28, traveled to Manchester to watch Copeland participate in the game last year. That’s all it took for the former Union-32 (Vt.) High football and lacrosse player to set his sights on joining the policemen’s roster this year.
“It’s an awesome cause and a great way to humanize our profession,” Alden said. “One of the players on Team Police (Jeff Czarnec) is a retired Manchester police officer who had two grandkids who were treated at CHaD. He was actually one of my college professors (at Manchester’s Hesser College) so that’s just one example of the way this event hits home.”
Hubert, 22, said a misunderstanding essentially led him to try out for Team Police. A 2008 Newport High grad, Hubert played baseball for the Tigers — but football has always been his No. 1 sport.
“Somehow one of the officers thought I played four years of college baseball, but it was actually four years of college football (at St. Anselm),” Hubert recalled. “But it didn’t matter. When I heard the police team was looking for players, I wanted to join, especially because CHaD is such a big part of community around here. It’s one of those things where the community does so much for us and it’s our way of giving back.”
With 26 players, Team Firemen totes a roster nearly twice the size of Team Police’s. Yet Fleury isn’t concerned about his team’s lack of bench depth compared to its counterparts — he’d rather outperform the firemen at fundraising than beat them on field.
“(The roster discrepancy) just means we have to go out there and raise more,” Fleury said. “We might be behind the 8-ball a little bit in terms of numbers, but I think we can do it.”
Jared Pendak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3306.