GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Every weekend, the newly formed Grand Rapids Unified Co-Ed softball league, or GRUCE softball league, meets up for a little friendly competition, although co-founder Faustino Garcia says they are not limited to the sport in their name.
“Not just softball. Basketball, football … flag football sometimes as well,” Garcia said. “(Softball) was really one of the stepping stones.”
But Saturday at Martin Luther King Park took on an even bigger meaning.
“Once you hear King Park, the first thing people would probably say is something negative, something bad — the fighting, the violence,” Garcia explained. “But we try to shed light on something positive.”
On June 23, the GRUCE League helped host the 2nd annual Stop the Violence 100 Men’s March and Co-Ed Softball Game, which aimed to raise awareness of recent neighborhood violence. To GRUCE co-founder Devon Howland, it’s a problem that hits close to home.
“I have a few friends that were in violent situations a long time ago,” Howland said. “This is why we do this — so we can give our people something to do and we can stay out of trouble. We’re just up here to have fun, bring the family, bring the kids.”
Like any community event, it wasn’t complete without food and cold drinks, bounce houses for the kids, and a little playtime. But while two groups compete on the diamond, they leave as one team rallying around each other toward one cause.
“We just want people to get them off the streets and give them something to do,” Howland said. “You just got to be here to feel the vibes. It’s really a good time.”
Garcia added, “it’s a lot that we can do beyond sports, beyond softball.”