Chicago police, Little Village athletes play softball for peace

A ball and a bat have always brought people together. But on Thursday in Little Village, a softball game took on a special purpose.

Chicago police mixed it up with some local players in a game that was not really about winning, but was a big win for the community.

The game did not pit police against the players from the various community league teams who came out. Instead, the two teams that squared off at La Villita Park at 28th and Sacramento was a combination of cops and local players.

It was a form of team building that has never been done in the seven years the local league has been around.

Matt DeMateo, the pastor of New Life Community Church, said he has been trying to line up a game with officers from the 10th District for several years.

Finally, it happened and he was extremely pleased with the police turnout.

“They came out en masse, many of them on their day off to show some collaboration, build community here with neighbors and friends, so this is a massive one for the community and for the city,” DeMateo said as he “preached” balls and strikes from behind the plate.

Captain Kevin Chambers, the current commander of the 10th District, said all the officers who play on the District’s 16 inch softball team came out on their day off.

“It's not adversarial, we're out here to play game, we're on the same field, we have no titles, we basically don't have a uniform either, so it's important to see it that way as well,” Chambers said.

And the game couldn’t come at a more important time with the way police and community relations are strained in cities across the country, including Chicago.

For the young people in the community, and there are 300 of them involved in the softball league, it goes a long way in showing that cops are people too, and not the bad guys they are sometimes made out to be.

“I think it shows the other side of cops, of police officers, yeah they are just like us, they like to come out and play, they don't mind being with other people around them from the community,” said 23-year-old Ernest Martinez, who has been playing in the league for several years.

Sixteen-year-old Joshua Roza agreed.

“It brings everybody together as one. I think it's great for the community, helps everybody out, makes them more friendly to everybody,” Roza said.

But while it was friendly, it was also brought out the competitive juices on all sides. When FOX 32 asked Captain Chambers if he was playing to win, he grinned and said, “Absolutely all the time.”