The softball game started with all of the pomp and ceremony of an important contest.
There was an official presentation of the colors, the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by a player, Skyler Lauver, and even a politician, Assemblyman James Oscarson, to throw out the first ball.
Then the game started, and all pretense went out the window.
From the first hit, when a player talking on her cell phone failed to make a play and someone was sent out to collect cell phones from every player on the field, through the sixth inning, when a “doctor” went out on the field to declare someone physically unfit to play and remove him from the game, fun was ahead of both teams on the scoreboard.
The record shows that the Girls Who Love Softball evened their Batting 1.000 series against the men of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary at two games apiece with a 13-11 victory Saturday at Pahrump Valley High School. But the real winners were the VFW Auxiliary and the school’s softball program.
The VFW Auxiliary shares 50 percent of the money raised from the cost of admission, the sale of raffle tickets and a “Fill the Glove” campaign conducted around town the past two weeks with the school’s team.
“Last year was our high at $3,780,” said game organizer Stacie Nicosia, who also handled announcing chores. “We topped that this year. I am so excited to do the final count, but it looks like it’s going to be around $4,500.”
Sometimes the action was a little tricky to follow.
A player was ruled out for using an illegal bat. Later, plate umpire Shawn Mendoza placed a walker on the baseline and instructed batter Allyson Rily that she would have to use it to reach first. (Not surprisingly, the result was a double play.) One memorable moment had Amaya Mendoza forced to use an orange whiffle bat; mercifully, that only lasted for one fouled-off pitch. And a whiffle ball was once inserted into the game, which somehow was fisted just past the infield for a single.
Base running wasn’t always straightforward, either. Marine veteran Chris Senhert decided to run directly to second base, leading to arrows being placed on the basepaths to help the older guys along. The VFW Auxiliary players retaliated by reversing the arrows. Like many of the players, Mendoza has been a regular in the 4-year-old series.
“Since the first one, I’ve been helping out with the VFW, umpiring, calling out from the press box, whatever I can do,” he said.
For some, “helping out” meant playing.
Nobody had more fun on the field than Mike Colucci. Playing first base for the VFW Auxiliary, he spent much of the game “helping out” the umpires and distracting opponents, at one time physically preventing a runner from getting from first base to second.
“And I’m not even a member of the VFW,” he said after the game. “I just played to fill in a spot. K.C. (Kevin Connell) is a member of the men’s auxiliary, and he asked me to play. This is the fourth year in a row. I think I’m the youngest guy on the team.”
Relative youth did not help on the bases, as Colucci stopped at first base after a long drive off the fence. A supportive teammate said, “If only he could run the bases like he runs his mouth,” and even Colucci had to joke, “Did you like the way I stretched that triple into a single?”
That was the tone for the day. George Longmire certainly felt it. The Air Force veteran began the game pitching for the VFW Auxiliary, and his control was the subject of relentless needling from the dugout.
“It’s my first year playing, and all these guys want to rag me,” Longmire said. “But I’ll be back next year.”
The reason is simple: The game is one of those rare times when the old saying about a good time was had by all actually applies.
“This is a lot of fun, and it’s for a good cause,” said Mike Nicosia, who served as coach for the men of the VFW Auxiliary and noted the one serious element of the day. “We always tell all the guys it’s OK if we get hurt, but just make sure none of the girls get hurt.”
Behind the scenes, a fair amount of work went into making the game happen.
“Actually, a lot,” Stacie Nicosia said. “Me and Gege (Murphy), my cohort, do better under the pressure, so we push a lot of it off until the last minute, but it’s about three months’ worth of work.
“We have to get our own insurance policy because we’re playing on the school’s field. As far as donations for our five dinners, which is really our big fundraiser with this game … it’s five dinners for two at five different places, that’s a $250 value, and going around and getting those and making sure we have them so we can sell the tickets for them, that gets kind of time-consuming.”
In the end, it all paid off, regardless of the score.
“This is one of our bigger fundraisers,” Wright said. “It helps the girls softball team buy uniforms or whatever they need, and it helps our programs at the VFW.”
Contact Sports Editor Tom Rysinski at firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter:@pvtimes