Sgt. Jose Natividad, the acting chief of the Belen Police Department, knows a thing or two about softball. He played baseball throughout his childhood, from Little League through high school.
Today, he plays on a softball team called the Iron Pigs — and they’re pretty good. Originally formed by the Belen Police Department, they play Tuesday, Friday and Saturdays each spring. Within a year of its formation, Natividad took over the team.
“The team we started was cops and our spouses,” said Natividad. “When some of the cops quit, I would bring in a family member.”
In April, they beat Mayor Tim Keller’s squad in Albuquerque. Keller, seeking a kind of rematch, challenged the city of Belen to a rematch.
In a Facebook post, Keller quips, “Bring your A-game mayor; we’re going to be ready for you — it’s going to be great. Belen verses Burque — bring it!”
The two teams were to consist of mainly city employees. Belen Mayor Jerah Cordova accepted the challenge from the Duke City mayor — with the caveat that he can use the Iron Pigs.
The Iron Pigs already have a couple of Belen police officers on the team — and a few more have joined since the challenge was announced. With Belen being the much smaller city, family and friends of city employees are allowed to play. This way, the teams are a little more evenly matched despite the size difference of the cities.
Cordova thinks the Iron Pigs give Belen a competitive edge.
“I have not played baseball since I was 10 years old,” Cordova laughed. “It’s a friendly game, but I know we have a pretty darn good team. We’ve beaten Albuquerque in the past, and I don’t have any doubt that we’ll be able to bring a good challenge to the city of Albuquerque.”
Keller couldn’t be reached for comment about the upcoming game.
The softball game, which has been dubbed the Belen-Burque Middle Rio Challenge is scheduled to be played at 9:30 a.m., Saturday, July 13, at Tingley Softball Fields, 913 Atlantic SW, in Albuquerque, across the street from the Albuquerque BioPark Zoo.
There is talk about an exchange of goods from each town — a special box with some local products of food and beverage, and the winning team will likely donate to a charity of their choice.
“This is a friendly bet,” said Cordova. “I hope Belen fans come out to the game. It is a unique opportunity when two cities do something like this.”
Natividad pointed to the country’s past, referencing the many times sports have helped the country heal. He believes a friendly softball game between Belen and Albuquerque can help both towns.
“It’s all for fun,” said Natividad. “At the end of the day, we have two cities bearing some hard times, and it’s always good to have sports.”
The ground rules for the “Belen-Burque Middle Rio Challenge include:
• USSSA coed rules will be used and two umpires will be used for the game, however the game shall be seven innings in length (no time limit shall be applied to the game).
• Roster may be unlimited, and teams may bat as many players as they wish, as long as the order alternates male-female throughout.
• USSSA player classifications shall be applied, and players shall not be designated higher than a D Level player to be eligible to participate.