Seems like nobody is willing to guarantee a win in this weekend’s softball grudge match between members of the Maine Warden Service and their counterparts across the border in New Hampshire.

But they are willing to lay out a couple of certainties.

“As a group, we don’t use a lot of sick days, but I can guarantee you there will probably be a few of them used Sunday and Monday,” said Sgt. Chris Simmons, one of the wardens who has helped organize the game at Portland’s Hadlock Field on Saturday night.

“Oh, there will definitely be plenty of injuries,” said Southern Franklin County warden Kris MacCabe, known across the United States thanks to his participation in the reality television series “North Woods Law” from 2012-2016. “Absolutely, without a doubt, my brain has me laying out in center field for a fly ball or for the one-hop grounder at third, but my body says that’s probably not a good idea anymore.

“I can still probably make the play, but the next day I’ll be a sore.”

The idea for the game started a few years ago, appropriately around a dinner table in Simmons’ home. Tired of hearing constant “sideline coaching” from her dad, his daughter issued a challenge.

“If you think you can do it better…”

So, members of the Maine Warden Service organized a charity softball game against members of the Belfast High School team. Last year, that game morphed into another against seniors from both the Belfast softball and baseball teams.

“For the record, we did beat them,” Simmons noted.

More importantly, Simmons said, that second game raised $17,000 for Maine Make-A-Wish and Operation Game Thief.

While Simmons was attending a national conference for the International Wildlife Crime Stoppers, he began brainstorming ideas for how to take the fun on the local level to a bigger audience.

“Because we work next to the New Hampshire guys and know a bunch of them well, we were all talking, talking about work stuff, and that evolved into, ‘Why don’t we play each other?’” Simmons said.

The hook for the game is obvious. After the Maine Warden Service’s time on “North Woods Law” ended in 2016, the show moved its focus to the New Hampshire Conservation Law Officers.

“Who’s the real North Woods Law?” Simmons asked.

Which is as close to smack talking as this game is going to get. But considering the people who stand to gain the most — Operation Game Thief in both Maine and New Hampshire, each state’s local Make-A-Wish organizations and the International Wildlife Crime Stoppers — it’s hard to find much bad blood.

More than 1,000 tickets for the game had been sold by the start of this week. In addition to the game itself, kids in attendance will receive baseballs they can get autographed. There are raffle items from lifetime hunting and fishing licenses to kayaks, from grills and smokers to whitewater rafting trips. Sea Dogs mascot Slugger will even be on hand.

MacCabe, a former high school and college ballplayer, speaks for virtually everybody involved when it came time to sign up.

“It took me like two seconds. I wanted to play,” MacCabe said. “I wanted to have a team before they did that. In my mind, I always wanted to be playing softball or baseball, a game that I loved as a kid.”

For MacCabe, 37, Hadlock Field is a special place. In part, it’s where he became hooked on baseball. After graduating from Monmouth, he went to St. Lawrence University in New York and continued his career there for a year before returning to Maine and going to school in Orono.

He still remembers well some of those first Portland Sea Dogs teams, the ones affiliated with the Florida Marlins.

“I absolutely love the Red Sox, but I remember the Sea Dogs when I was a kid,” MacCabe said. “Charles Johnson was the catcher. God, he had a cannon for an arm. Edgar Renteria, I remember that he gave me a bat. I thought it was awesome and I would use it every chance I got — I didn’t even realize that it was splintered and that’s why he gave it to me.

“I remember going down to games as a kid with a milk jug with a hole cut in the side of it, and I’d hold it over the dugout with a baseball in it wanting the guys to sign it. For me, I remember being that kid looking for autographs.”

And now, MacCabe and 12 other members of the Maine Warden Service — plus an entire team of conservation law officers from New Hampshire — will play on that same field where his baseball dreams were once made. And, they’ll probably sign a bunch of autographs, too.

Nobody will guarantee it but this game will be a win, a win for kids benefiting from the fine work of Make-A-Wish, for Operation Game Thief and those who protect New England’s natural resources, and for…

… well, those in charge of doling out sick time within the Maine Warden Service.


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