BRADENTON -- "All-Star" had a deeper meaning on Saturday evening at McKechnie Field.
Steve Pontious, a retired firefighter from West Manatee Fire Rescue, has been impacting the lives of firefighters in Florida since 2008.
The choice to dedicate his retirement years to helping those firefighters and families in need was motivated by the story of one firefighter's ultimate sacrifice: Terry Farrell, one of 343 firefighters who died on Sept. 11, 2001 in the attack on the World Trade Center.
On Saturday, Pontious was honored for that dedication as one of the Bradenton Marauders' 2014 "All-Stars Among Us".
The honor, created by the Bradenton Marauders and the Bradenton Herald, recognizes community members who have had a positive impact in Manatee County. It was part of the festivities surrounding the 2014 Florida State League All-Star Game, which Bradenton hosted for the first time Saturday.
The "All-Stars Among Us" winners were chosen each of the three categories: Youth Education & Ath
letics, First Responders and Non-Profit Volunteers. All eight of the winners were recognized on the field and given a $500 cash prize and a $500 matching donation to the nonprofit of their choice.
For Pontious, not only did he choose Terry Ferrell Firefighters Fund as his charity of choice, but he also decided to donate his cash prize to the fund as well.
"Basically, when firefighters are in we need to are here to support them," Pontious said. "We support firefighters who support our community."
Pontious didn't know he had been nominated by his wife, he said.
"When I got the call from the Marauders, I was surprised," Pontious said.
In the stands Saturday he had overwhelming support, he said.
"It was nice to honored in front of so many people," Pontious said.
He was accompanied by his wife, their son, his daughter-in-law, sons-in-laws, daughter, grandsons and his parents. There were also many firefighters present at the game to support him, he added.
Most fans in the crowd of 5,882 were enjoying themselves Saturday despite a rain delay.
John Bookhimer was prepared with his poncho.
"I come all the time to watch the Marauders," Bookhimer said. "I'm a baseball fan and have been for years."
Bookhimer, originally from Pittsburgh, came just for the game.
"I'd rather be sitting here than in my condo," Bookhimer said. "And I love to watch the young kids play."
Bradenton Major Wayne Poston, one of the "All-Stars Among Us" judges, was happy to honor them and very excited about the game making its Bradenton debut.
" I think because of the renovation (of McKechnie Field) that the players came," Poston said. "It's really a honor to host this."
Vivian Lively was anxiously waiting for the rain to pass.
"We bought the tickets a month ago just so we could sit behind the home plate," Lively said. "It's a nice park, nice people, you always have a great seat and the price is right."
A big baseball fan, she had her program in hand with the scores she kept during the home run derby earlier in the day.
"During the derby, we did see some kids that really have talent," Lively said. "These kids play their heart out, but only some of them will make it to the major leagues."
Bob Carnes was enjoying the day's events.
"It's my first time at an All-Star Game," Carnes said.
The baseball fan frequents games in Bradenton and Charlotte.
"It's a nice crowd, I'm just disappointed Bradenton doesn't draw a bigger crowd," Carnes said. "One thing about Florida is there is too much to do."
Jessica De Leon, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.