In recent years, the Tate Aggies and the West Florida Jaguars have roamed the top of the food chain when it comes to softball.
But in their meeting on Friday night at 7, the event will be much bigger than the on-field competition.
The Aggies play host in the 7th Annual Strike Out cancer game — after the Jags and Tate combined to raise more than $11,000 for the American Cancer Society in last year’s event.
“Everyone eventually has their lives touched by cancer — whether it is a family member, friend, co-worker or whoever,” Tate coach Melinda Wyatt said. “This is just our way of giving something back to the community as well as the American Cancer Society.”
Prior to the game, each cancer survivor in attendance will be recognized on-field and be presented with a flower — followed by a ceremonial first pitch.
Tate will take donations at the admission-free gate, while numerous prizes — everything from Yeti coolers to customized-pink West Florida and Tate bats — will be up for raffle throughout the game.
“We don’t keep a penny,” Wyatt said. “All proceeds go to the American Cancer Society. Last year we were able to write a check for more than $11,000. (WF coach) Jessica (Smith) gets her kids involved and does such a wonderful job contributing. Last year they made a Go-Fund-Me page and presented it to us in total.”
Wyatt said that Tate will tally the funds on a board throughout the night and will have corporate sponsors for the event this year.
The Jaguars return to the Strike Out Cancer game for the second-straight year and Smith and the Jags couldn’t seem to be more thrilled.
“It’s an honor to get asked to play in the Strike Out Cancer game a second year,” Smith said. “It is a great time and it is something that our girls are excited to be a part of.
“(Strike Out Cancer) is a fun game with an awesome atmosphere and a big turnout. It makes you feel good inside — you get to play softball and raise money for something that’s very important.”
The Aggies have yet to lose in the Strike Out Cancer game and will certainly aim to keep that up.
“It’s always a good battle with us (West Florida) and Tate,” Smith said. “The Aggies always bring their ‘A’ game every time. Coach Wyatt runs a great program and the (Tate and West Florida) girls know each other very well from travel ball.”
And while Wyatt stated that the atmosphere is always different at the Strike Out Cancer game, she echoed Smith’s sentiments when it comes to competition.
“It’s gonna be competitive every year we play West Florida Tech,” Wyatt said. “Once that first pitch is thrown out there, we’re gonna try our hardest to win. The feeling in the air (of the Strike Out Cancer game) is really a lot different. But it’s gonna be a game — both sides always look forward to it.”
In the event that Friday’s game gets rained out, Wyatt and Smith have already agreed to host the event Monday at Tate (5 p.m. JV; 7 p.m. Varsity).
7th Annual Strike Out Cancer game
Where: Tate High School.
When: 7 p.m. Varsity; 5 p.m. JV.
Who: West Florida Jaguars vs. Tate Aggies
Skinny: Free admission, donations taken at gate and raffles throughout night; Last year’s event raised more than $11,000.