Members of the Santa Maria Police Department are trading their guns and badges for bats and gloves to join the Band of Brothers Softball League, which held opening ceremonies Friday night.
Band of Brothers is a group of military veterans from all branches who gather for Friday night games at the James Hagerman Softball Complex. The six-team league was confined to military veterans until this year, when first responders joined the action, making up the seventh team.
“This marks the beginning of expanding Band of Brother's outreach to include first responders,” said Stephanie Tracy, community relations manager for Band of Brothers.
Eighteen players representing the Santa Maria Police Department adopted the name "Lights and Sirens" and tabbed SMPD Detective Shawn Fuggs as the head coach.
President and founder of the Band of Brothers, Steve Baird, said he's excited to welcome the SMPD on the diamond this spring season.
“We’ve had a great relationship with them and how they treat veterans,” Baird said. “There’s always been a desire to get a SMPD team.”
Santa Maria's police force will compete against teams named Courage, Freedom, Honor, Integrity, Patriot and Valor. The season will culminate in a championship game slated to be held during the Memorial Day weekend.
Baird is hoping the Band of Brothers league will continue to expand, adding teams from Santa Luis Obispo and as far north as Paso Robles.
Friday's opening event included a color guard, the singing of the national anthem, player awards and a first pitch ceremony. The ceremony also included the unveiling of the John Coyle Award, given to an officer who has selflessly prevented area military veterans from committing suicide and assisting with other crisis prevention cases. Santa Maria Police Officer Ethan Brown was this year's recipient, according to Baird, due to his commitment to help area veterans, prevent a suicide attempt and handle other crisis prevention cases.
While he was rewarded by Baird for his commitment to help veterans who have lost hope, Brown said Baird deserves more recognition.
"He's one of those men I truly try to build myself after," said Brown, who joined the Police Department in June 2017 after graduating from Hancock College's police academy. "He's comprised of something greater. He's a man of great wisdom."
Besides softball, Band of Brothers organizes a pool league at the Santa Maria Billiard Lounge and a bowling league at Rancho Bowl. Both are offered Sunday nights.
The group also participates in community events and causes, most recently collecting cold-weather items to donate to the Salvation Army, according to Baird. Members also partner with law enforcement and crisis teams to fight depression and prevent veteran suicide.
ECHO Group, a nonprofit group, contributes funding and support to the Band of Brothers. The group also has created a home -- Camp Flores -- for several veterans in the community who otherwise may be homeless.
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