Through its first three games in the Battle of the Badges basketball tournament, the Seymour Fire Department scorched the nets.
Recording wins against Jackson County Emergency Medical Services 33-28, Brownstown Police Department 36-21 and Jackson County Sheriff’s Department 34-17, the fire department found itself in the title game in the second year of the tournament.
Standing in the way was the Seymour Police Department.
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In an intense defensive battle, the fire department held on for a 16-13 win.
For the next year, bragging rights will be with the firefighters.
“It was definitely very competitive,” firefighter Kaleb McKinney said. “Of course, when you see a guy on the street next week, you want to be the guy who won.”
McKinney said the firefighters didn’t get a chance to all practice together before Friday’s tournament at the Boys and Girls Club of Seymour, but those on the same shift were able to practice when time permitted.
What mattered is that it all came together on the court. And it did, as they finished the night 4-0.
The sheriff’s department beat the fire department by a few points in the title game of the first Battle of the Badges on Sept. 12, 2015, and the firefighters knew they had their hands full again Friday night.
“We felt like we gave it away (in 2015) at the basketball tournament, so we felt like we had something to prove,” McKinney said.
He said the final score of Friday’s title game was low because of good defense and everyone feeling a little tired.
“It was kind of a defensive physical struggle,” McKinney said. “Obviously, we get tired because this is not the kind of thing we do regularly. When we work, we work for a short stint, and then you get a chance to take a break, and then you work for a short stint and go really hard. Here, until you got out, you’re not getting a break, so you’re working five minutes hard in a row.”
Already looking at next year’s tournament, the fire department will fight to return to the championship.
“It just means that we’ve got the target on our back now,” McKinney said.
Rick Meyer, an officer with the sheriff’s department, has organized both of the basketball tournaments along with the first Battle of the Badges softball tournament, which was conducted June 11, 2016.
He said after he was shot in the line of duty in 2014, he wanted to do something to thank those who supported him and give back to the community.
“I felt the love from everybody, and I just wanted to give back to the community because the community was so good to me,” he said. “I thought, ‘What better way than to have a fundraiser and get all of the police and fire and EMS out here’ because we don’t get to see each other. Out here, we all get to talk to each other and have a good time and raise some money for the community.”
Proceeds from the first basketball tournament benefited the Boys and Girls Club, and canned goods were collected for Anchor House Family Assistance Center and Food Pantry in Seymour.
The softball tournament, which was won by the Indiana State Police, raised money for the Fraternal Order of Police Donald M. Winn Lodge 108’s Cops and Kids program and Hoosier Burn Camp.
Money raised from Friday’s event will go to help build the Jackson County Dog Shelter, and canned goods were collected again for Anchor House.
So far, around $75,000 of the $200,000 needed to build the dog shelter has been raised. It will be built near the sheriff’s department in Brownstown and take the place of Red Sky Rescue in Medora, which contracts with the county to house dogs collected by the animal control officer until homes are found for them.
“What helps is not so much the money but the awareness, letting people know that the dog shelter is something the community definitely needs,” Meyer said. “Red Sky has been great, but we’ve got to turn the page and get something else going.”
Meyer said about 50 men and women played in Friday’s tournament.
Jesse Hutchinson, a deputy with the sheriff’s department, helped the team win its first three games before falling to the fire department.
He also competed in the first basketball tournament and the softball tournament.
“It’s a good time,” Hutchinson said. “It gets everybody out here. It gets the other agencies together. The job alone is stressful enough, so it’s nice to come out here and get with each other.”
The sheriff’s department players weren’t able to practice beforehand. By the fourth game Friday, Hutchinson said everyone was worn out.
“The fourth game, it really hit us,” he said. “I was worn out during the game definitely, but it’s fun. I’m starting to feel better.”
Hutchinson said he likes the competitiveness of the tournament.
“It’s nice to come out here and enjoy something other than work,” he said. “All of these guys enjoy their work, and they are very good at what they do. It’s just nice to take your mind off of everything and come out here and enjoy the time.”
He was glad to see bleachers on both ends of the gymnasium filled with spectators.
“It’s nice to see that people actually want to come out and watch and participate, too,” Hutchinson said. “It’s something we enjoy, and the community wants to come out and see that we’re regular people, too.”
This was the first tournament appearance for the Brownstown Police Department.
John Reichenbacker, the department’s Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer, said they didn’t have enough players to participate in 2015.
This year, they were able to gather just enough players. They had a couple of practices before Friday’s competition.
“It’s not anything we’re used to, but it’s a lot of fun to play,” Reichenbacker said. “It’s fun to get with the other departments in a non-work-related activity every now and then.”
He said it was a friendly atmosphere despite the “little overzealous” competition at times.
“Everybody wants to win. Nobody likes to lose,” Reichenbacker said. “That can be said definitely for law enforcement. The fire department, they definitely don’t like to lose, and EMS, too.”
That tenacity comes from working in the emergency services field, he said.
“EMS doesn’t ever want to lose a patient. The fire department never wants to lose a structure,” he said. “You don’t ever want to lose lives or anything like that, so we take that (mindset) even into sports. Sometimes, it’s over the edge when we get into it, but it is friendly competition.”
The EMS team also had a couple of practices before the tournament. The team was organized about 10 days before Friday, said emergency medical technician Ray Minton.
Working 24-hour shifts at a time made it difficult to get the players together, he said.
“It makes it a little bit harder for us to find coverage and come out here, but we all want to do it,” Minton said. “When we have 6,500 runs a year, it’s kind of hard to get together while we’re working to get together and do stuff.”
Minton said it was fun being on the court with some of his coworkers and playing against the police and fire departments.
“It’s supposed to be friendly (competition). It just got a little bit hairy a few times tonight, but that’s all right. It’s still all in good fun. There is some great camaraderie regardless of who wins or loses,” Minton said.
“It’s a great place for all of us to get together and make fun of people and all do it in good spirit,” he said. “It’s also to make fun of ourselves. That’s actually the biggest thing. I have no problem laughing at myself.”
Getting an opportunity to help a couple of good causes is a bonus, Minton said.
“We’re out here doing it for charity and to raise money,” he said. “That’s what it’s about.”
For information about Battle of the Badges, visit facebook.com/jacksoncountybattleofthebadges.