Competition and compassion converged in a pair of high school all-star games that brought together athletes for the Heart of Texas Fellowship of Christian Athletes Victory Bowl.
The growing summer tradition that started with a football game in Waco nine years ago and added volleyball included for the second year a baseball and softball game at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.
Sixty-five just-graduated high school athletes took part Friday in the games, along with 12 selected coaches.
The players stayed in host homes and completed community service in Temple and Belton, participated in devotional time together and shared meals and recreational activities.
Divided into Red and Blue teams, the baseball and softball players competed in skills competitions Thursday that tested throwing, hitting and running ability.
On Friday, they played in the culminating games in simultaneous contests at the adjacent UMHB field joined by a concourse to allow fans to move from one to the other.
Students said the three days of activities was a jam-packed schedule and a unique opportunity to enjoy a final game together, serve the community and meet like-minded peers.
FCA Area Director Seth Chambliss praised the wealth of volunteers, donors and sponsors that made the games a success and said the players honored their schools with their dedication.
The rosters included pitcher Madison Livers and catcher Anna Hontz representing Ellison High School softball. The baseball roster included catcher Garet Douglas of Ellison and first baseman Jacob Mitchell of Harker Heights High School as well as Ellison baseball coach Ty Oppermann.
On Thursday, a day of community service, Mitchell joined a group of Red Team baseball players to clean and prepare the kitchen and serving area at a food service ministry in Temple called Feed My Sheep.
“It’s an honor to be selected,” the Harker Heights graduate said. “This is a great atmosphere and we get to help people. Spending time with teammates and helping people is the highlight.”
The first baseman said all the players, representing a wide range of small and large schools, brought solid skills to the game and willingness to serve. “It’s an awesome experience,” Mitchell said.
Down the street, other groups of players helped organize food, toiletries and toys for distribution at a pantry ministry called Churches Touching Lives for Christ. Other students labored at the Love of Christ pantry.
“It’s exciting knowing I was nominated for my skills and hard work,” said Honz who got to catch for her Ellison pitching teammate in the softball game.
“The schedule is jam-packed and it’s fun,” she said. “Service was fun. I made a lot of new friends.”
“It’s exciting,” said Livers following the softball skills competition on Thursday.
“This is a great opportunity.”
She said she expected a competitive game the following day with so many dedicated athletes.
Oppermann agreed with the players that it was a privilege to be selected to take part in the second annual Victory Bowl baseball and softball games.
He said the coaches enjoyed relaxed time to reflect together on the joy and challenges of their profession and to spend time with top athletes of strong character.
“There’s some bragging about players and talking about the season,” he said. “It’s something that revitalizes you.”