The Maine Warden Service investing in the lives of youths in the Pine Tree State is nothing unusual. The group offers events such as Camp North Woods, Hooked on Fishing and a warden camp, to name a few.

And the group carried on with those beliefs on Sunday, May 20 as they traded in their signature red coats for softball gloves and converged on the home field of the Belfast Area High School softball team for a charity game against a handful of BAHS upperclassmen — all for a good cause.

The game was held to raise money for Make-A-Wish Maine and Operation Game Thief, both of which are non-profit organizations.

The event was organized by Lion softball coach Chris Bartlett and Chris Simmons of the Maine Warden Service.

Simmons said after expenses, “about $5,200 or $5,300” was raised, which will be split evenly among the two charities.

Simmons said all involved were pleased with how the event turned out, despite the fact they started the process of putting the event together later than they would have liked, due to various circumstances.

That, and “the weather made us real nervous” with rain in the forecast.

“We know some people didn’t come because the weather looked bad, and the weather was kind of crappy right up until the start where we had some light rain,” he said. “But you could look off in the horizon and see the blue sky coming and it finally changed. We were all happy with how it went.”

“I think the event was received very well,” said Bartlett. “I think everyone there had a lot of fun. It was a great way for the community to meet some of the other wardens along with their local wardens. The day went off without a hitch and we are already looking forward to next year's event.”

Team members for Belfast, which comprised members of the school’s baseball and softball teams in addition to teachers in the district, were Olivia Lovejoy, Emma Mehuren, Jillian Young, Maya Cunningham, Brooke Richards, Grey Dinsmore, Tyler Bartlett, Skyler Perkins, Konnor Harford, Luke Hamlin, Chris Bartlett, Brooke Reed, Macy Gale and Sara McIntire-Bryant.

Team members for the Maine Warden Service were Kris MacCabe, Anna Simmons, Tom McKenney, Josh Beal, Chris Simmons, Joel Wilkinson, Laura Beal, Cliff Littlefield, Scott Thrasher, Aaron Cross and Josh Bubier, along with manager Katie Simmons.

The event had the atmosphere similar to that of a Portland Sea Dogs game. The smell of hamburgers and hot dogs were in the air, a bounce house for children was set up in foul territory and a pair of trailers sat in the parking lot displaying a bevy of hunting and fishing paraphernalia.

Several items also were raffled, including a guided white-water rafting trip, Sea Dogs tickets, a $50 Cabela’s gift card and a lifetime hunting and fishing license, among others.

Chris Simmons said before the game his team would “refuse to lose” and backed it up on the field with several timely hits and heads-up base running.

An interesting wrinkle for the game was event emcee Chris Dyer would often call out players on the teams and have them sent to “jail.”

Warden Will Shuman often walked onto the field in full uniform and walked off the “perp,” with their “bail” set at $20 to be permitted reentry into the game.

Chris Simmons said the “jail-and-bail” technique netted roughly an additional $700 for the charities.

The innovative ways to raise funds did not stop there.

“The seniors were down 19-6 going into the top of the ninth and the emcee put out a call to spectators that for every $5 donated he would add a run to the seniors score,” said Chris Bartlett. “So within 10 minutes, the game was tied 19-19. I had the winning run in my hands but their manager came running over and said we could not win that way.”

Thus, the decision was made that both teams would select three players, all of who would get the chance to win the game for their team in a longest drive competition.

Tyler Bartlett, Richards and Dinsmore were the three players selected from the Belfast side, while MacCabe, Wilkinson and Beal represented the Maine Warden Service.

By game’s end, it was MacCabe that slugged the longest ball to give the wardens the victory.

Chris Simmons said it was “just neat to hang around these high school kids,” all of which warmed up to the game wardens as the game chugged along.

“When we first started they were pretty quiet, but at the end they were talking smack at us and with us and pretty excited when they could strike us out and kid around with us,” Chris Simmons said. “Just establishing that relationship with these seniors and kids that have never had dealings with any of us [is special].”

He added they plan for the game to be an annual event and “our goal is to double [money-wise] what we did this year.”

“Obviously we’re game wardens and our function in life is to catch poachers and all that, but bottom line nothing is more important than kids,” Chris Simmons said. “So just the simply fact that Operation Game Thief was able to partner with Make-A-Wish Maine, that was pretty decent.”