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Tomas Gonzalez/DRC

Big hearts in Little Elm little league

LITTLE ELM -- Police officer and baseball coach Clif Holliefield greeted young sluggers and patted them on the shoulders as they marched out Saturday morning to the diamond in Little Elm Area Youth Sports Association's park. More specifically, he greeted his extended family.

That family came together to pitch in for the family of police Detective Jerry Walker, who was fatally shot during a standoff at a Little Elm home on Jan. 17.

"It's not just the Walker family," Holliefield said. "We are all a family here, and we'll always come together in support of one another."

Spirits were strong as 53 teams of nearly 600 total kids and dozens of Little Elm residents raised $2,725 for the Walker family during the spring season opener of LEAYSA Baseball. Lt. Jimmy Lewis with the Little Elm Police Department took to the pitcher's mound to deliver the season's first pitch, followed by an invocation from the chaplain of the Little Elm Fire Department.

Pastor Marc Farnell with CrossRidge Church in Little Elm then led the masses in prayer for a fulfilling season of baseball and safety for law enforcement.

"God, we thank you for our law enforcement, our first responders," he said. "We pray that you would bless them. Allow them to know how much we appreciate their service and protection of us. We pray that you would protect them and watch their every step."

Following the prayer, Guns and Hoses Foundation of North Texas, an organization dedicated to providing immediate financial assistance to the families of first responders killed in the line of duty, presented an American flag fashioned from metal to the Little Elm Police Department. The sculpture, which was mostly gray, had stripes in blue, red and green to show solidarity with law enforcement, firefighters and military personnel.

Local businesses also sponsored the event, and the Frisco RoughRiders produced shirts with "633" -- Detective Walker's badge number -- on the sleeve, which visitors could purchase for $5 in support of the Walkers.

Ryan Williams, a spokesman for the RoughRiders, said providing the shirts for LEAYSA free of cost was a simple gesture for an inspiring community.

"We love this community and always look to give back where we can," Williams said. "This is a great organization with a great cause today."

Holliefield, who is among several local officers who coach little league baseball, called this level of support from the community commonplace. That's thanks to the small town, where he's been a coach for five years and a police officer for more than two years.

He and several other officers began brainstorming ways the department and the community could help Walker's family immediately after his death.

Love for America's pastime and the love that permeates the tight-knit town combined into one season opener that reaffirmed Little Elm's values.

"This is the type of place you want to raise a kid in," Walker said. "Family is No. 1 here."

MATT PAYNE can be reached at 940-566-6845.