“Always Remember the 12th of September.” The 2013 Lane Kemper Softball Classic T-shirt logo simply asks that we remember Lane Kemper and the camaraderie he always tried to promote with his off-duty activities and fundraisers. Lane always tried to rise above the petty differences and procedural directives that sometimes overshadow the fact that, as firefighters, we’re all in this craziness together.
The stresses that directly influence our well being every time we jump to answer an alarm are real but difficult to quantify. There needs to be some means of release. The uncertainty in the political arena and the often disruptive management decisions of our own department scramble continuity and chip away at our morale. Recent history of near misses and tragedy in our department and others across the U.S. only prove that, now more than ever, we need to focus on cohesion and strengthen our morale.
So on May 16, 2013, we gathered in Lane Kemper’s memory to play softball, eat, drink and laugh for a few hours in the spirit of camaraderie and friendly firehouse competition. We organize, pay for, schedule, equip, feed, compete, police ourselves and clean up without any visible means of support from the mothership of the Ivory Tower. Funny how well it goes. As always, all monies raised are donated to the LAFRA Widows, Orphans and Disabled Firemen’s Fund.
This year’s field of competitors was a bit smaller. With more fragmented fire stations it becomes more difficult to assemble teams. There were 28 teams that played on eight fields at two parks. As usual, the competition was intense with some very closely matched teams and some not so closely matched teams. There was a great group of umpires this year that did a necessary but not always appreciated job of calling the games. Remember, these guys are unpaid volunteers and do their best to keep things fair and equitable. Also, remember there is a no guff rule designed to protect the umpires and minimize conflict and delays of game.
With an odd (not divisible by eight) number of teams scheduling became a little confusing but we worked through it and got ‘r done. At Balboa Park 12 teams played down to two. At Hjelte Park 16 teams played down to four. The elimination continued at Hjelte Park down to the finalists. Missing from the group of finalists were the 3-peaters from 15’s. Apparently, their perennial threat was eliminated early. A very talented, and YOUNG group of players from Battalion 13 endured to the finale. 46’s, 33’s and 64’s were the top three teams with 46’s topping 33’s for the victory, trophy and bragging rights for a whole year!
The food was exceptional this year and was the handiwork of Mark Curry and his cast of characters: Greg Pascola and Eric Stevens, with their strike team of BBQ’s and convergent volunteer helpers. There was plenty to eat for all. In fact, some lucky maggot-messers got some nice leftovers to take back to the station. (Note: There was a little “squeaking” about how high the food budget was. Rumor: Some of that budget might get “sequestered” next year.)
The raffle and auction was loaded with great stuff again and credit here goes to the wonderful Valerie Lawrence and her cast of helpers, volunteers and Relief Association ladies. Question: How is it that there always seems to be a few names that get drawn multiple times? Some people just have all the luck. Thanks to Steve Ruda for keeping things moving and entertaining as he exposed the winners. Again, all proceeds go to the Widows, Orphans and Disabled Firemen’s Fund.
Special thanks again to Bill Bringas for keeping the tradition alive. Special thanks also to Steve and Mona Romas for offering their home for storage of the equipment and staging the pre-tournament logistics. For this tradition to continue there will always be a need for people to handle these logistical duties. Individuals interested in keeping this tradition alive will have to step forward and learn the ropes in the next few years if we want the Lane Kemper Softball Classic to live on. Do you have what it takes? Bill and Steve need you.
P.S. If you notice these sorts of things, you may have seen an older gentleman wandering around all afternoon at Hjelte Park purposefully gathering cans and bottles from the ground and trash cans. He’s not a vagrant living off the discards of a well-to-do public. His name is Hoy and he is a relevant, responsible, retired professional who has been collecting and cashing in at our softball event for a number of years now and donating what he collects, rounding up the amount with a some of his own money, to the Widows and Orphans Fund. What a wonderful example of the chain of love.
By Jim Stiglich, LAFD retired