Harris County ESD No. 48 Fire Department Wins Battle of the Badges

Harris County ESD No. 48 Fire Department Wins Battle of the Badges

June 21 2023

On Saturday, eight softball teams from across the West Houston region and beyond descended upon Katy City Park for a softball tournament. But the players weren't just softball enthusiasts looking to enjoy the sport for personal recreation. Teams were comprised of firefighters - both men and women- who came together for the first annual Battle of the Badges Softball Tournament as a show of support for each other and the community.

Held at Katy City Park, servicemen and women convened on the field on Saturday, June 17 to play four rounds of softball, followed by two semifinal rounds and topped off by finals. Representatives from Westlake Fire Department, Willowfork Fire Department, Fulshear Simonton Fire Department, Eastex Fire Department, Community Volunteer Fire Department, Katy Fire Department, Harris County ESD No. 48 Fire Department, and Cy-Fair Fire Department were on scene in a battle for bragging rights while enjoying some fun camaraderie as dozens of family, friends, volunteers and members of the community cheered them on from the sidelines. 


But they didn't arrive at Katy City Park by happenstance. Over two months ago, Harris County ESD No. 48 Fire Department's Public Information Officer, Jason Tharp, received a phone call from the Fulshear Simonton Fire Department about coordinating a softball team to play a game for the fun of it. Then after more discussion, their plans evolved to invite more fire departments and even raise money for charity by collecting a $20 entry fee from each participant. Tharp sent emails to several departments and received an enthusiastic, resounding "yes" from all invitees, paving the way for the first annual Battle of the Badges Softball Tournament.

After many weeks of planning and training, the tournament finally kicked off with an electrifying guitar performance of "The Star Spangled Banner" by Willowfork Captain Michael Garcia. Westlake FD and Community VFD played the first round at 8:40 AM, followed by Willowfork FD versus Katy FD, then Fulshear Simonton FD versus Harris County ESD No. 48 FD, and Eastex FD versus Cy-Fair FD. After the initial rounds, the first semifinal round was played between Katy FD and Community VFD, then Harris County ESD No. 48 FD and Cy-Fair FD. The final game was played between Harris County ESD No. 48 FD and Katy FD. At around 4:00 PM, the tournament concluded with Harris County ESD No. 48 FD emerging as the 2023 champion.


With an average of 16 players per team, participant fees covered use of the field, an umpire, game balls, and trophies, with a remaining sum of around $1,500 that will be donated to the annual Katy Area Safety Fest, a free, family-friendly festival featuring personnel, equipment, and activities from emergency response agencies serving the Greater Katy community. The festival aims to connect community members to the men and women who serve in these agencies as well as provide education and resources to encourage safety preparedness.

During the tournament, a special group of volunteers were on hand to ensure the safety of the players - and even the players' families - as they endured brutally hot temperatures on the field. Comprised of retired citizens, Harris County ESD No. 48 Fire Department's rehab team arrived at Katy City Park early in the morning on the day of the tournament with a truck full of Gatorade, snacks and cold towels to help keep the players hydrated and cool. The rehab team stayed all day through the end of the tournament, serving the players and their families. 

"Everyone was very appreciative that they were there. We wouldn't have survived out there without them," said Tharp.

In addition to the rehab team, the former chief of Westlake FD, Mark Palmer, saw Tharp's Facebook posts about the upcoming tournament a couple of weeks before the big event. Now the owner of 1-800 BoardUp Restoration, Palmer called Tharp to ask how they could help out, offering use of his company's portable A/C units to keep the players cool while in the dugout. When Palmer arrived at the park on the morning of the tournament, he was delighted to see many players whom he had known as children. As several of the players had not seen one another since fire academy, the tournament also served as a reunion of sorts, giving participants an opportunity to reconnect and even forge new friendships.


"Many families were there and interacting no matter what jersey they had on. You could feel the positive energy as much as you could the heat. The brotherhood was strong [that day]," said Tharp.

Because of the immensely positive response, this tournament will be coming back bigger, stronger and fortunately, without the intense heat. Tharp plans to put a committee together with players from each team to help plan in the future, with the next tournament set to take place in the first part of November. The tournament might even be held semi-annually with a tournament in the fall followed by another in the spring. Be on the lookout for more information about the fall tournament and plan to attend with family and friends in support of our local heroes and the community.

By Tiffany Krenek, My Neighborhood News 
Tiffany Krenek has been on the My Neighborhood News team since August 2021. She is passionate about curating and sharing content that enriches the lives of our readers in a personal, meaningful way. A loving mother and wife, Tiffany and her family live in the West Houston/Cypress region.

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