OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (WLOX) - Thirty-six teams signed up to play a softball tournament to help raise money for the family of Officer Robert McKeithen, who was shot and killed last month.
“This man was a great guy and everything. We came to support him and come play ball for him today," said one player.
The teams were made up of fellow officers, active and retired military and civilian supporters.
“Full of emotions. It hits home, so I’m just out here trying to have a good time for Officer Mac," said Officer Corina McSwain with D’Iberville Police. "Make his family proud.”
The competition was fierce at the two-day tournament hosted at the Ocean Springs Sports Complex. Players shared their preparation strategy.
“We have some friendly games at batting practice at some of our local fields and a lot of trash talking," said Donald Calamia, a police officer from Louisiana.
Calamia said his team is taking note so they can honor fallen officers in their parish.
“We’re actually out here to have some fun, and we’re actually looking to put on a tournament back home," he said.
Veterans Tribute Foundation organized the tournament to raise money for the McKeithen family, just over a month after his death..
“This big of an event took over a month with tons of people putting their time and energy into this,” said Heather Holley, secretary of the foundation.
She said people and local businesses jumped at the chance to contribute however they could.
“Everybody felt with what happened they wanted to come out show our support and take care of our law enforcement,” Holley said.
The athletes channeled what many on the field remember most about McKeithen: his energetic spirit.
“You know how funerals are a celebration of life. This is a celebration of his service. We’re celebrating his life by being lively and loud and happy and playing ball," said Morgan Funderburk with the Long Beach Police Department.
“You’re honored to be able to do it. It’s definitely more of...it’s definitely got a higher power kind of feeling,” said Amber Funderburk.
The tournament actually grew into a two-day event thanks to the overwhelming response from the community.