Cops Vs. Coaches: A Win for Ocracoke

Jenny Scarborough
Cops Vs. Coaches: A Win for Ocracoke
Photo by Crystal Canterbury

Today was a historic day on Ocracoke, or the day for that heist you've been planning.

The first competitive adult soft ball game was held at the Community Park. There aren't enough Hyde Deputies and NPS Rangers, or "The Cops" to field a baseball team. Their number was supplemented by two crackerjack high school players, one recent Ocracoke School graduate, and EMS medic Sandy Yeatts. School staff and community members who volunteer in support of athletic programs in middle and high school fielded "The Coaches" team.

The crowd was bi-partisan. 

Well over 200 people attended, at $5 for adults and $2 for kids. Brandon O'Neal and Serina O'Neal welcomed people at the entry. The event raised funds for the celebratory Field Day held near the end of each Ocracoke School calendar year. The bleachers were full and vocal. People cheered each batter by name, and hooted their delight at mishaps. The line for concessions was consistently five or six people deep. Kids motored through the crowd in small packs. Toddlers toddled.

Has anyone seen an Ely child? Their mother wanted to know, when she arrived after work. I saw Starr on the bleachers when I got here, I said. Cheri glanced over. Her eldest child had moved. I'm not worried about it, she said. Everyone there knew everyone there, within a degree or two. Welcome to Ocracoke!

This is one of the things the Community Park is all about. At least 20% percent of the community was present, bundled up against the wind, mentioning it but not complaining. Islands are windy places. No, it is not this windy all the time. 

The Cops had a 2-0 lead after a home run hit by NPS Chief Ed Fuller. People were still talking about it when I got there. The Coaches raged back. Brian Samick and John Kattenberg, who played on a college scholarship, if recollection serves, hit zingers to the outfield to get on base. David Scott Esham stepped up to bat and the outfield took a step back. David Scott bunted, and turned to grin in the direction of Ed, who pitched for the Cops, as he sprinted to first. 

Brian ran so fast rounding the bases that his hat flew off. David Allewalt loves to steal home. The Coaches dominated, leading 15-3 after a few innings. I had to find people who hadn't grown up on Ocracoke to ask which comes first: the top or bottom of an inning? The top is first. What does it rest on, one wonders.

A few of the players appear to really know what they're doing, said someone within my earshot. Coach Denny Widener was one of them, and his play was alive with exuberance. 

The entire event felt exuberant. There was a home baked cake raffled between each inning. I spotted Elaine Spencer toting her raffle winner. The tupperware container had tape on top with these words written in sharpie: "Chocolate Cake Lisa Caswell." Do you get to pick your cake? I asked. "You get to pick your cake!" said Elaine. Maybe Ocracoke is paradise.

Cake aficionado Andy Todd's name was also called as a raffle winner. He worried in jest that he didn't have his ticket stub to hand: "You're the only 'A. Todd' here," his wife, Angie, reminded him.

A kid--her kid--gently caromed off a woman I don't know well but I was glad to be talking with. She looked down, briefly spoke with him, and he cruised off to play. I hope my kids watch this and see how competition and challenging one another can be friendly, she said.

Adults swung and missed. Hits bounced past one, then two fielders. People were putting themselves out there to try, and possibly fail, in front of a crowd of their community and peers. Effort was applauded at greater volume than runs. It was a bit brisk, but the overall feeling was warm. Swing, batter!

Running coach Kitty Mitchell stepped up to bat and settled into her stance after a pratfall much appreciated by the crowd. It's been 40 years since she played softball, her daughter, Katy, said. Strike one! The next pitch was a hit. Kitty ran, with perfect form, and made it to first, thanks to a catching error.

Players wore matching T-shirts: gray for the Coaches, black for the Cops. Everyone wore the number 16, suggesting the start of an annual event. A few people I spoke with said they hoped tight baseball pants will be more in evidence next year. 

The Cops were buckling down and had narrowed the margin to 7 runs when I had to leave for work. They tied the game, only to lose by one. A great rivalry has been born. A great tradition of adult league sports on Ocracoke is being revitalized by the existence of the Community Park. 

Crystal Canterbury brought her camera. Expect photos and more coverage soon. 


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