By Amanda Johnson
PARIS—”Play ball,” someone in the crowd shouts as the players take to the field.
Oxford County firemen were pitted against Oxford County police officers in a softball game last Sunday that was held in memory of Norway Fire Captain David Millett, who died in May shortly after attending to a fire.
Thinking of Millett may have sparked the firemen’s fight to win, which they did with a score of 18 to 17, thanks to a walk-off home run at the bottom of the ninth by Norway Fire Lieutenant Billy McNaulty. It was a close game compared to last year, when the firefighter’s walked away with a 21 to nine win.
Norway Fire Chief Dennis Yates and fireman Ron Springer are used to coaching the firemen’s team with Millett, but the two had to go it alone this year.
“It was sad,” says Yates about playing the game without Millett. “Bitter-sweet. It was great we won but it wasn’t the same without David.”
The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services (SAPARS) holds the game every year to raise funds for its program, and said in a press release that Millett was the kind of guy who coached the team with enthusiasm and dedication and was further deeply involved in work that SAPARS did in the community. Millett began his career as a volunteer firefighter for the Norway Fire Department in 1972. He was also the treasurer of the Norway Firemen’s Relief Association and served as the department’s safety officer.
T-shirts for both teams were new this year, purchased in honor of Captain Millett, and were available for sale—each one with a black bear outlined on the front in reference to Millett’s nickname “The Bear.” On the sleeve of the shirt is a quote from the firemen that says, “Rest easy brother, we’ll take it from here.”
A home run derby was held before the start of the softball game. Millett’s wife, Irene, and others in Millett’s family were honored before the game began. LeBlond presented Irene Millett with one of the T-shirts and a softball signed by firefighters. Irene threw the first pitch in honor of her husband.
“David’s life was about helping people,” says Irene. “This was a way he could help other people. He loved softball.”
A moment of silence followed by a prayer for Millett opened the ballgame, with Troy Billings from from the Paris Fire Department pitching first and the police officers up to bat.
Members of both teams came from departments across Oxford County to play for Millett and SAPARS. The firemen’s team consisted firefighters from Hebron, Norway, Paris, West Paris and Tri-Town Rescue. The police team was made up of members from Oxford Police Department, Oxford County Sherriff’s Office, Maine Warden Services, Maine State Police and the Paris Police Department.
For the past eight years, the Oxford Casino has sponsored the SAPARS’s annual Police vs. Firefighters Softball Game. Nearly 100 sexual assault awareness signs were staked into the ground, lining both sides of the walkway leading to Gouin Field. Each sign told the story of a sexual offender and a victim—a stark reminder that anyone can be a victim of sexual assault. SAPARS helped nearly 400 victims of sexual assault last year. With sponsorship from the casino, the event raised a total of $2,606 and more than $100 in T-shirt sales. A teary-eyed Irene Millett was emotional from the get-go.
“It’s so nice that they dedicated [the game] to him,” she says.