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Cops and 'robbers' to battle on softball field

Former addicts are looking for revenge against the police — on the softball field.

“They won last year. So we got our eye on them,” said Brandon Orr, who broke free of heroin and methamphetamine addiction after more than a year in the Jackson County Jail and state prison.

In a dramatic battle with plenty of runs last year, police edged out people in recovery 10-8 during the annual Cops & Robbers Allstar Softball Game.

The Robbers team name is a nod to the fact that some people committed crimes while in the grip of addiction.

Police not only won the Cops & Robbers game, the Central Point Police Department emerged as the overall champion of a two-day softball tournament during the annual Recovery Festival in Medford.

But Orr has a prediction for this year’s softball tournament, which runs from Friday evening through Saturday night.

“We’re gonna bring a ‘W.’ We’re working on fundamentals. Everybody can bat,” he said.

Scott Gustafson, who celebrated 19 years of sobriety in August, also has a prediction for who will win.

“Oh, us. Definitely! That’s the only way to think. We’re going to win,” he said.

Gustafson said police officers always represent a threat on the field because they stay in great shape. But he said local fire departments that compete in the annual tournament also have strong players.

Although the different teams are rivals in softball, Gustafson said everyone works together to fight addiction and prevent overdoses.

“Unfortunately for some people, the end is death,” he said.

Police, firefighters and paramedics are often on the front lines of the battle against addiction. First responders in the Rogue Valley now commonly carry naloxone, which can reverse overdoses from opioids like heroin and prescription pain pills.

Police see the damage to families and communities when addicts resort to crime to feed their habit.

This year will mark Medford Police Department Corporal Joshua Schilder’s third time playing in the tournament. He said many of the former addicts have come a long way in their recovery.

“It’s nice for us to see that,” Schilder said during a recent softball practice. “I hate seeing when people are struggling for years and their families are being broken apart. It’s sad, and we don’t like seeing that. I like seeing people out here in this setting.”

Police aren’t immune to the ravages of addiction.

“I come from a family of addicts myself,” Schilder told people in recovery during the practice. “I’m a white sheep in a family of black sheep, I guess.”

He said the tournament helps show that people facing addiction and police officers are all human.

Although people may struggle with addiction for years, Schilder said it’s rewarding to see them after they get clean — working out in the community and taking part in local events.

Jillian Mahon played softball in high school, but addiction caused her to lose interest in sports and hobbies.

“Your life becomes about getting, using and continuing to use. You live moment by moment in your addiction — and you don’t think about the future, and you don’t think about the past. You’re just kind of numb,” she recalled.

Mahon said people in recovery need to engage in fun, healthy activities.

“It’s absolutely the most important part of recovery, I think. I think that reconnecting with old hobbies or creating new hobbies that are healthy are what keep us clean — staying involved with other people in recovery — because part of our addiction is isolation,” she said.

Mahon now plays regularly on an Addictions Recovery Center alumni team. They just won a championship in the co-ed softball city league. They have more than the requisite two women per team, but Mahon says she’s not intimidated by the idea of going up against teams with more men during the Recovery Festival Softball Tournament.

“I think the more women, the better. When women come together, we can conquer the world,” she said.

This year, people in recovery, police officers and firefighters will face new opponents in the tournament. Addiction counselors and faith leaders are joining the fray for the first time.

Organizer Doug Gould, founder of the Restoring Our Community Recovery Center in downtown Medford, titled this year’s event the Strong and Courageous 2019 Recovery Festival.

“You have to be strong and courageous to protect our streets,” he said. “You have to be strong and courageous to be a firefighter. You have to be strong and courageous to walk in and ask for help. You have to be strong and courageous to work with people in the community on the front lines of addiction.”

Gould said he hopes the whole community will turn out to honor those fighting addiction, while also showing support for their own friends or family members who may be struggling with drugs and alcohol.

Every year, there are people in the stands still dealing with addiction.

“To all those out there, this could be you guys next year playing against them,” Orr said of his recovery team’s upcoming face-off with police. “Come be on our team.”

The tournament this year will feature two Cops & Robbers games. Admission to the games is free.

Gates open at 4 p.m. Friday at Harry & David Field, 2929 S. Pacific Highway, Medford.

An opening ceremony is scheduled for 5 p.m., followed by the start of a game between the Central Point Police Department and one of the recovery teams at about 5:15.

Each game will last for seven innings or 1 hour and 15 minutes, whichever comes first.

The second Cops & Robbers game, between the Medford Police Department and another recovery team, starts at about 6:30 p.m.

Saturday games kick off at 8 a.m. when faith leaders take on Jackson County Fire District No. 3., followed by Addictions Recovery Center alumni battling Jackson County Fire District No. 5 at about 9:30 a.m.

Teams will continue fighting through the double-elimination tournament until the last two standing face off during the 6:30 p.m. championship game.

During short breaks during the games, fans will hear stories of recovery and hope.

The Recovery Festival includes music and a family fun zone with a bounce house, pony rides, face painting, visits with Wildlife Images animals, carnival booths and more from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Tickets to the family activities, along with food and raffle tickets for a Traeger grill and meat, will be sold to raise money for recovery programs.

“All the money goes toward saving lives,” Gould said.

Local organizations and agencies that provide services will set up information booths. To encourage interaction, people who visit the booths and get their programs signed will receive extra carnival and raffle tickets.

For more information about the festival, see rocrecoverycenter.org.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

Medford Police Department Corporal Joshua Schilder talks with people who have beat addiction during a recent softball practice. Denise Baratta / Mail Tribune