Texas Javelinas Hawgs honor teammate Gary Gryder and all fallen officers at Memorial Softball Tournament

Mandy Day

My father, Senior Police Officer Paul Day (retired HPD), used to drag me around softball fields every weekend of my life, and at the time I didn’t show any signs that I appreciated this particular family tradition.

For this reason, my dad was rather stunned last year when I announced that I wanted to relaunch the long-standing Midnight Softball League. While I quietly worked away at Midnight League, Dad had started a project of his own – he was organizing a softball team to take to the Texas Police Games.

 

Inspiration and Action

 

When he finally let the cat out of the bag, I was surprised but excited. I loved the idea of re-organizing a new generation of his original team, the Houston Hawgs. But Dad had other plans; instead of getting the Hawgs back together, he was reuniting the Javelinas, and I was not 100 percent in agreement.

To make a long story short, we spent several weeks “discussing” the matter. During this time I was reminded on several occasions that I was dangerously close to violating the Fifth Commandment by not “honoring my father”and, in an effort to save my mortal soul, I agreed to a compromise: We would re-organize the team and they would be known as the Texas Javelina Hawgs.

On Friday, June 29, the Texas Javelina Hawgs will take the field at the Gary Gryder Memorial Softball Tournament to honor their friend and teammate, who died in the line of duty in 2008.  They will be joined by Gary’s son, Austin Gryder, playing in the outfield. The tournament will be played in League City at Big League Dreams, 1150 Big League Dreams Parkway.

The tournament opening will mark the 10th anniversary of Gryder’s death.

This tournament has been in the making for six months. It all started one day when Dad was rattling off a list of players he played with during his time with the Javelinas and the Hawgs. When he said Gary’s name, a little flurry went off in my brain. “Dad, did you know him well?” I asked.

This sparked several conversations of Dad’s memories of Gary and all their former teammates. That got the bee in my bonnet buzzing and I started asking current and former players about Gary and their memories of him. Everyone had one comment in common: Gary was the type of guy that set a good mood. You couldn’t help but just feel good when he was around.

It was through conversations with his family, his friends and his colleagues that I learned that Gary was the embodiment of everything a good officer, husband and father is. And that’s when I knew that we needed to host this tournament.

Over the last couple of months I’ve had the privilege of getting to know Gary’s family. His wife Debbie and I had been in communication for some time and my dad had started to communicate with Austin. But I had yet to meet either him or Debbie. At our first meeting, Austin, Debbie and I went out for Chinese.  I’d only known Austin for an hour or so but I was so impressed with this young man. He was the perfect gentleman in an era where young people seem more absorbed by their handheld devices than in live company. He made sure that everyone he met had his full attention.

A Familiar  Pitcher and Catcher

During a lengthy conversation between Austin and our waitress, I turned to Debbie and asked, “Where does he get his personality from?” She smiled and responded, “His father. Anyone will tell you that talking to him is just like talking to Gary.” When she said this, I instantly remembered what multiple sources had told me about Gary – that he was the kind of guy that would set a good mood.

I never had the opportunity to meet Gary but when I’m with Debbie and Austin, I feel as though I’ve known them and Gary my entire life. I’m honored that Austin has agreed to throw out the first pitch at our softball tournament. I hope that if you’re reading this, and you knew Gary that you’ll come out and join us as we celebrate his life and his legacy. Join us as we honor Gary and all officers who have fallen in the line duty.

Catching the first pitch for Austin will be Tyler Martin, the son of Officer Richard Martin, who was killed in the line of duty three years ago. Like Austin, Tyler is a talented ball player. I feel incredibly blessed that these two young men have agreed to participate in this way because they are the embodiment of what our blue family is and they set the tone for what we are trying to accomplish with the Gryder tournament.

This tournament will serve two purposes: to bring the blue family together for a weekend of fun competition, and to raise money for the Gary Gryder Scholarship Fund. This fund will raise money for scholarships that will be given to children of police officers.

If you have children who are in their junior or senior years of high school, please email me at mandyleeday@gmail.com for details on how to apply for the scholarship.