Fence busting hits, food and fun were plentiful at Riverside Park on Tuesday night as the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) softball team faced off against the Naturals of local radio station WPGC. The exhibition celebrated National Night Out, a crime and drug prevention event sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch.
This year's event was the 27th annual National Night Out, which is traditionally celebrated on the first Tuesday of August. National Night Out, which supports local anti-crime initiatives such as Prince George's County's Safe Summer Program and Xtreme Teens, also functions to strengthen neighborhood spirit.
While softball was certainly the night's main event, spectators seemed to enjoy themselves just as much as the players did, spending the evening taking full advantage of the free hot dogs, chips and Italian ice.
Complete with the national anthem sung by R&B recording artist Chantal, and a ceremonial first pitch, the softball game started fast for the Naturals who hit two home runs en route to a five-run first inning. Unrelenting in the top of the second, WPGC added eight more runs, four of them by way of the solo home run.
The M-NCPPC squad, which is made up of local police as well as parks and recreation staff, refused to go quietly. They quickly responded to the Naturals' early offense with 12 runs of their own in the second inning alone, initially sparked by 10 consecutive hits before the first out was even recorded. They also took advantage of their speed throughout the contest, an attribute which led to savvy base running against a seemingly nonchalant, error-plagued Naturals defense.
Although WPGC found themselves down three runs in the seventh and final inning, their offensive skill proved too much for the under-matched M-NCPPC team, who despite a thin roster, and obvious fatigue, managed to keep it close. With an M-NCPPC pop out to right center in the bottom of the seventh, the game ended with a final score of 26-23, the Naturals finishing victorious. Rydell Taylor and Keith Campbell, both of WPGC, combined for seven of the 14 total home runs hit throughout the game.
Following the contest, Taylor was crowned MVP and credited the win to his team's work ethic and cohesiveness. He also went on to congratulate M-NCPPC for a tough, fortuitous performance, citing the fact that the Naturals routinely blow teams out by as many as 20 runs.
Regardless of wins or losses, the night was really about bringing the community together in the spirit of crime prevention.
"This is a great event for the community because it provides summer safety and positive night activities," said M-NCPPC Youth Services Coordinator Kelli Beavers following the game.