IN HONOUR OF FAMILY AND LOVE OF THE GAME
By Blair McQuillan
By Blair McQuillan
850 words – MR
In honour of family and for the love of the game
By Blair McQuillan
A police officer will probably never experience anything more devastating during their career than the line of duty death of a friend and colleague.
York Regional Police (YRP) Cst. Jon Carson faced such a reality on the morning of Tuesday, June 28, 2011, when Cst. Garrett Styles was killed while conducting a traffic stop in East Gwillimbury, Ontario.
News of the tragedy hit the 1,900 sworn and civilian members of the police service hard as the 2007 line of duty death of Det/Cst. Rob Plunkett was still fresh in their minds.
“It was a tough time for all of us,” Carson said. “Garrett’s life reflected the lives of most of us in some very significant ways. He was a young officer who was dedicated to his craft. He had a great sense of duty and was a leader on his platoon. Beyond that, he was a family man with a wife, Melissa and two small children. His death reminded all of us how precious each day is.”
In addition to their frequent conversations about family and policing, Carson and Styles often talked about baseball. Red Sox and Blue Jay fans respectively, the two uniform officers would frequently exchange views on all things related to the sport during locker room conversations at 1 District Headquarters in Newmarket where they worked.
“Following his death, I knew I wanted to do something that would honour Garrett,” Carson said. “I wanted an event that his children, Meredith and Nolan, would recognize as part of their father’s legacy.
“Baseball is a sport that embodies team work, dedication and creates lasting bonds between people. I thought a tournament would be a good way to remember him and create lasting memories for those of us who participated on the field and in the bleachers.”
Just two months following Garrett’s death, on Wednesday, August 17, 2011, the 1st Annual Garrett Styles Memorial Baseball Tournament was held in Newmarket on the same field where he had played as a youth. With assistance from Garrett’s father, YRP S/Sgt. (ret.) Garry Styles and his sister, CPIC/Transcription Operator Meghan Styles, the tournament raised more than $5,000.
Garry said the tournament has helped with the healing process and reminded him of Garrett’s youth.
“We spent many summers touring around Southern Ontario as a family attending baseball tournaments,” he recalled. “Garrett was a talented pitcher and great team player. I remember spending many days sitting in the stands with my wife and our two sons and daughter. I think of those days fondly.”
For Carson, the tournament proved to be more work than he expected and the learning curve for planning such events proved to be steep. However, at the conclusion of the first tournament, he immediately looked ahead to 2012.
“Once word about the tournament spread, we had the New York Police Department Finest, New York State Courts Blue Sox and Nepean Brewers all sign on,” Carson said. “In addition, the Newmarket Hawks, a local team which Garrett had played for when he was younger, joined the tournament.”
In a testament to the effort put forth by the teams involved, the final game of the 2012 tournament came down to a walk-off double in the bottom of the seventh inning. With a final score of 4 to 3, the Finest beat out the Hawks to win the tournament.
The tournament raised money for the Canadian Tire Jumpstart program which helps kids participate in sports and recreational activities. Carson said that through generous donations, including $5,000 from the Royal Canadian Legion, the tournament raised approximately $20,000.
“All of the money raised remains in York Region,” Carson said. “It’s great to think that through partnerships with the teams, local businesses and the Jumpstart program we are able to help kids and ultimately our community, in this way.”
With the third annual tournament set to take place from September 20 to 22, 2013, Carson is again looking to enhance the event. Additional organizers have joined in to assist, including Garrett’s wife Melissa and Jon’s wife, YRP Cst. Kim Carson.
“We will host 12 teams this year,” he said. “There are still some spots available. We’ve had interest from teams in California, Australia and Ireland, which is exciting.
“We’ll be hosting a day of baseball for kids from the Jumpstart program in conjunction with the tournament. We’re also hosting an excursion for tournament players and their families to the Roger’s Centre in Toronto for a game between the Blue Jays and Yankees.”
As the tournament continues to evolve, Carson hopes people remember it is all about making connections.
“I know Garrett made the lives he touched – both on and off the job – better,” he said. “At the end of the day we are all judged on how well we treat people. It’s important to remember that.”
Contact Cst. Jon Carson at email@example.com or visit www.1405baseball.com for more information on the Garrett Styles Memorial Baseball Tournament. Follow it on Twitter at @1405baseball .