The inaugural Gary Gryder Memorial Softball Tournament was held on June 29-30, drawing teams from many law enforcement agencies across Texas and Louisiana.
I’m proud to say that we had players from the Houston Police Department, the Houston Fire Department, the Dallas Police Department, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the Conroe Police Department, the Fulshear Police Department, and many more. Big League Dreams in League City was the scene of what we hope will be many future Gryder tournaments.
To say that our participants were good spirited is an understatement because they played on two of the hottest days we’d seen all summer and somehow smiled the whole way through the intense heat.
Two of our teams had very close ties to Gary Gryder: the Javelina Hawgs roster included several of Gary’s former teammates and friends, and the Late Side Boys represented HPD’s Southeast Patrol, which is where Gary was assigned.
From the onset, the goal of this tournament was to honor Gary, his life, his family and his memory. He died in the line of duty on June 29, 2008.
I think this was achieved. None of it would not have been possible without the help of the Houston Police Officers Union, the HPD, the Harris County Sherriff’s Office and many more unnamed volunteers.
Tim Whitaker of the HPOU Board of Directors opened the tournament with a ceremony in which the HPD Honor Guard presented colors, Lt. Shannon Bowdoin of the HCSO sang the National Anthem and delivered the opening prayer. HPD Chief Art Acevedo delivered remarks. The entire ceremony was special as we stood and honored Gary on the 10th anniversary of his line of duty death.
But many agreed that the most touching moment was when Austin Gryder, the son of Gary and Debbie Gryder, delivered the ceremonial first pitch to Tyler Martin, son of Officer Richard Martin, who gave his life in the line of duty on May 18, 2015.
Earlier in the week I’d mentioned to Tyler’s mother Kim that he might want to bring his ball glove in case there was time for him to throw the ball around a bit. Well, I’m really glad he chose to follow this suggestion – after Game 1 a key player on the Javelina Hawgs roster injured his hamstring and had to leave the game. That’s the moment that Tyler Martin took the outfield! I sure am glad he had that glove.
The two-day tournament began with pool play on Friday that guaranteed each team three games with a Saturday double-elimination round. It’s fair to say that we made these guys work for their medals and trophies.
We saw some great play on those fields, but I think that the best games of all came in the final three games. As a tournament director, I wanted to establish the goal of ensuring that everyone had a good time – win or lose. I hope that the smiles on their faces as they left the field means that we accomplished that.
Our finalists were: Double Tapp (4th place), Houston Fire (3rd place), Team Louisiana (2nd) and Team Texas (1st).
I’d like to offer a final note of thanks to the Gryder family – this tournament is for you, and I’m looking forward to many more years of the Gary Gryder Memorial Softball Tournament.
Proceeds from this tournament will be used for a scholarship that we’ve established in Gary’s name. For information on how to apply for this scholarship, please email Amanda Day at firstname.lastname@example.org