CENTRAL, LA (WAFB) - Loading the diamond for seven innings Friday evening, the Central High School softball team offered a warm embrace of their hometown hero.
The Wildcats teamed up with West Feliciana for a fundraiser honoring members of law enforcement – in particular, East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sgt. Bruce Simmons.
"We're trying to teach our kids at Central to always know that it is our responsibility to give back to our community and to take care of people that are in need. Baton Rouge is in great need right now," said Michelle Efferson, the head coach of the Central softball team.
Simmons was one of those hit when a man opened fire on Baton Rouge law enforcement last July. A bullet sliced through his arm.
The sergeant, who is still undergoing extensive physical therapy, got to throw out the opening pitch at the beginning of the game. It crossed over the plate, landing in the catcher's mitt.
"I was just as surprised as they were," Simmons joked.
The event, which also included an alumni game, generated hundreds of dollars. Most of that went to help with Simmons' recovery.
Just recently, Simmons said he regained the ability to move the thumb in his left hand. Still, he said the road ahead is a long one.
The tribute comes after yet another rough month for Baton Rouge law enforcement. Simmons knew fallen Lt. Shawn Anderson, who was shot and killed while conducting an investigation at a barbershop off O'Neal Lane on Saturday, March 18. He called him a "great guy."
"Unfortunately with the type of work we do, we put our lives on the line," Simmons said.
Even so, he said he is eager to get to work serving the community he loves. He hopes to return to the force later this year.
"I haven't retired yet," he said. "When you are a public servant, you are always a public servant."
On the diamond, Central High dominated over West Feliciana, with a final score of 7-2.