Baseball, BackStopping and the Power of Unity

As I reflect on my experience during the 60 Hour World Record Baseball Game benefitting BackStoppers, there is so much that come to mind.

Many have asked how I became involved with this group of people.  It started when I donated time as a basketball referee for the World Record Basketball Game benefiting Joplin tornado victims.  I was so impressed with the dedication of the players, I knew I wanted to be a part of the next challenge they embraced.  When Chuck Williams sent me the email asking if I wanted to umpire for the 60 Hour Baseball Game, my answer was an unequivocal ‘no.’  I wanted to extend my commitment past a few hours and complete the entire task with the group.  That decision proved far more rewarding than even I anticipated.

With that said I wanted to offer a few shout outs to some very impressive people.  Please keep in mind that for me name recognition is limited and I am in no way trying to discount anyone’s contributions of whom I am not aware.  I am basically the new kid on the block.










Team Traube

1) Steve Pona and Chuck Williams are some visionary and giving individuals.  I am  grateful to know them and to have worked with them.  In addition to their regular full time jobs, these charity events require a totally separate full time obligation in order for them to succeed.  These guys make it look very easy.  I saw much of just what they went through during the event let along before it to help make things run smoothly.  It only takes one or a small group to spark a fire for a great cause.  Steve and Chuck are a force to be reckoned with.

2) Michelle Bommarito Pona, and Cari Atkinson are warriors above and beyond the call of duty.  I can’t even count the amount of things they had their hands into from breakfast, lunch & dinner; to ice, managing logistical snafus, and last but not least dirty stinking laundry in the wee hours of the night after working all damn day!  Cari scared us a bit when she suffered some effects from the heat.  But she wasn’t going home until the deal was done.  I witnessed her arguing with EMS and Jeff Lange as she lay on the floor with ice bags all over her.  Even the Sargent (Jeff) couldn’t ‘detain’ her to house arrest.   I don’t think I recognized Lynn Coats by face, but she was so instrumental with helping me finalize my silent auction item.  Of course there were many more whose name I never learned.  But their faces were familiar throughout the process and we all leaned on one another.

3) My teammates (Liebe) were just awesome.  Great guys to hang out with who kept it light, fun and competitive.  Most of us proved extremely unselfish in being on time for shifts and picking one another up.  Some of us needed extra time for rest or to nurse an injury. The support was plentiful as it should have been.  The point was to finish strong together and we did just that.  Kevin Wheeler was a hitting machine who was really fun to watch.  Matt Savoi caught about 100 innings.  And lord knows how many innings Todd Hinderliter threw.  Through the heat, the midnight/sunrise hours, and the sore muscles, boy was it fun!  I had some of the best laughs ever, most of it laughing at ourselves.

4) Speaking of sore muscles, none of us would have made it without the help of our friends from SSM Health Care!  They became familiar with me rather quickly.  Many of us sought them for Biofreeze as if they were street dealers. “Give me just one more package!  I promise not to ask again!”  Seriously they took great care of us and were just awesome!


Baseball during 4th of July Fireworks

5) What I will remember about the opposition (Traube) most is that boy did they want to win.  After shooting out to a 30-4 lead, the few times we almost caught up they made their minds up to put it out of reach.  Sure we had a lot of light and care free innings.  But when I got picked off at first at 5 something in the morning I knew what time it was.  (LOL) Charity be dammed they wanted to win!  That was cool though as they are a great bunch of guys.  I don’t recall the catcher’s name but he actually helped me get out of my slump by giving me some suggestions about my approach.

6) Sponsorship was vital.  Liebe Lettering and Traube Tents provided great jerseys for both teams.  Great tents!  We truly thank all of the sponsors who donated time, food, balls, (Markwort) bats, (Area 51) clothing, and so on for lending their name and products.  Being pregnant with a vision doesn’t cost a thing birthing it out cost big $$$$$$$!

SSM Healthcare

7) I am so proud of my umpire brethren.   Before the basketball game for Joplin, I sent request to every basketball official I knew.  Unfortunately, though we had some support, there were plenty of times the guys had to call their own fouls and independently run their games.  The umpires commitment was so significant that I don’t recall seeing anything less than a 4 man crew for the entire 60 hours.  Even one of my crew chiefs who shall remain unnamed (Greg Willem) paid one of the other umps $5 to ring me up on a bogus strike three call. (100% true story) If that ain’t love I don’t know what is.

8) The BackStoppers family which was the motivation behind this entire event is something special.  Chief Ron Battelle is such a gracious and honorable man.  He’s one of my favorite kind of guys.  He walks softly and carries the proverbial big stick.  Not because he flaunts it, but just the opposite.  His leadership is founded upon and revealed within his heart to serve.  This is why people follow him.  Needless to say meeting Officer Matt Crosby, and Julie Weinhold and family brought the issue right at home.  It is for them and the 60 other current families being served by BackStoppers that made this all worth doing.  For these families whose loved one have given the ultimate sacrifice WE are grateful!

To all I say thank you for everything. I look forward to the next cause…the next act of love!

And lastly, don’t get it twisted.  The game is over but we are still taking donations!

The Group

The BackStoppers! A Commitment Worthy of Investing!

Important Update:

On Sunday we had our meet, greet, and practice session for the World Record Baseball for BackStoppers at T.R. Hughes Ball Park. (July, 3 – 5) I got to meet the guys and we discussed what our 60 hour baseball game will look like logistically and otherwise. It’s going to be a great event in of itself. Not to mention the Heritage Festival and 5K run event that will be going on just outside the ballpark during the 4th of July week.

What was most significant however, is that we got to meet some of the people whom BackStoppers assist.

Officer Officer Matt Crosby with Chief Ron Battelle

First there was Matt Crosby. Matt was a police officer in Rock Hill who was shot while investigating a domestic disturbance in 2010. That shooting has left him paralyzed and wheel chair bound. Matt told us about how Chief Ron Battellle (Exec. Dir. of BackStoppers) came to the hospital to present him with a $50,000 check shortly after he was injured. Since the incident BackStoppers has been in lock step with Matt and his family so that he has not had to worry about medical and living expenses..

Second there was Julie Weinhold and her four children. Julie’s husband Officer Eric Weinhold was killed in the line of duty in 2000. The BackStoppers allowed Julie to raise her children at home. This has been such a blessed investment as the two older boys are now in college and the girls thriving in high school.  BackStoppers has been so committed to this family, that even after Julie got remarried and her husband was laid off, they continued to assist assuring that their family continues to move forward.  This is what I call COMMITMENT to the sacrificed.

As excited as I was to play this game and support this cause, meeting these great people just fired me up all the more.  Chief Battelle (a retired 40 year police officer) couldn’t even introduce Matt and Julie without breaking down in tears.  Helping these officers and their families is a serious mission for this man.  His compassion is contagious and his spirit strong.  He told us that there are 56 other cases right now just like Matt and Julie’s that are being supported.

I share this because I want to let you know how much BackStoppers has done for our community.  Police, firefighters and EMT workers are vital to our safety and security.  To know that there is a community organization that supports those who have made the ultimate sacrifice is heartening. 

I noticed something else too by the way.  Of all of the players and organizers that I saw on Sunday, I was the only person of color.  This is especially significant because BackStoppers does not discriminate against those in need.  All who are served within our community should give back and support those who serve us.  I have no problem representing my community.  I would like to ask those who look like me especially to help contribute to this case by donating something to The BackStoppers for this event.  It doesn’t have to be a large amount.  (Contact me via email or inbox me if on Facebook)

This is not just about the money either.  Personally, I won’t have health insurance until September.  Though there will be a medical staff on site, I have already signed the forms to be responsible for my own health risk.  My family fully supports this decision as we believe in what we are doing.

After the game, I plan to find out how I can help The BackStoppers in the future.

This is a great organization!  Let’s come together and support it!

Family Julie Weinhold and her children

Showing Some Love for the Fallen Innocent Servants

Leonard Riggins

For those who don’t live in the St. Louis area, you may or may not have heard of the tragedy of this St. Louis Firefighter who was shot and killed by a carjacker on Wednesday the day after the election.  Leonard Riggins was in his fire department vehicle as he approached an accident.  Though off duty he stopped anyway.  Unfortunately the accident was caused by a car jacker who then shot Riggins in the chest. 

Later that suspect was shot and killed by police.  (I ain’t mad about it either… though it doesn’t bring Riggins back…. not saying thats right, just being real about it.)

Many thoughts and prayers to Rigginn’s family as well as his brothers and sisters with the Fire Department.

Also a week ago University City Police Officer Sgt. Michael King 50, was also shot and killed while sitting in his partrol car.  A suspect has been arrested and we hope they get the right person so justice can be served.  King was buried on Tuesday, November 4.

These senseless killings need to stop!

 casket of Sgt. Michael King