Spring is in full swing. The long days of summer are not far off, and what better way to usher in the change of seasons than with a little camaraderie, topped with a dash of team rivalry. That’s right, it’s time for the Lane Kemper Classic. On May 2, 2018, thirty-two teams made up of some of the best the LAFD has to offer gathered to play a little softball, raise a little money for the Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firemen’s Fund, and of course, honor the memory of Captain Lane Kemper who passed away in 2006.
Captain Lane Kemper was a compassionate man who believed in the spirit of camaraderie. With a strong work ethic and a true belief in you get what you give, Lane lived a life in which he walked the talk and did so in a confidant, but respectful, way that we should all try to emulate. Nowhere was this more evident than with his work with the Relief Association. Always willing to help, Lane raised countless funds to assure the Association would be in a position to help those in need when called upon. Not only did he raise funds for the WODFF, but he also brought awareness of the importance of volunteerism, which to this day is the lifeblood of the organization. Though it has been some time since his passing, Lane’s legendary enthusiasm for friendly competition, his selfless ability to give back to those in need, and the passionate way in which he lived his life still shines, and his spirit lives on as we celebrate his memory by participating in this year’s 2018 Lane Kemper Classic.
As with previous years, the day started with a threat of rain but was quickly overshadowed by the spirit of enthusiastic volunteers filling the parking lot of the Balboa Bl complex. A culmination of months of preparation by LAFRA’s own Juliet Brandolino and Valerie Lawrence began to take shape as the scores of volunteer workers began unloading vehicles and setting up tables to hold all of the wonderful auction items graciously donated by the event’s sponsors. From valuable trips, fun-packed gift baskets, bottles of wine, to even a giant Aflac stuffed duck, the multitude of donated items helped the Lane Kemper team of volunteers raise more than ? for the WODFF.
Chaplain Rick Godinez started the event off with a prayer, asking God for a day free of injury for all. A musical rendition of the National Anthem was then played, followed by Captain Keith Brandy presenting Bill Bringas with a customized bat that honored Bill for his past commitment to the event. Bill had passed the torch to Keith the year prior, but old habits die hard as Bill still spent most of the day volunteering his time and helping organize the team’s schedules. Speaking of volunteering, let’s not forget the work that Captain Brandy put in to make it yet another successful event. Though the Kemper Classic is only a one-day event, months of planning and hard work did go into it, and we want to say a huge thank you to Keith for a job well done.
With the blessing and other formalities out of the way, it was time to get down to business and play some ball. The first round of play was a practice session, which meant it really didn’t count, but one would be hard pressed to tell the difference between the practice and championship round. As the day went on, the sun tried to come out but never quite made it; however, the strategy of player’s personalities – and even entire teams – did. FS 64 definitely made their presence known. Their verbal tactics seemed to work for them as they finished off FS 14 in a close game in the early rounds. FS 78 had their own personalities. One in particular was Brian Hoover’s wife of ten years. From the stands she made it pretty clear that he would be “going hungry tonight” if he didn’t step things up after missing a hard-hit ground ball. The words, “No dessert for you tonight,” were shouted out at least once or twice by the Mrs. I’m pretty sure she was talking about food–but maybe NOT! The play of FS 33’s Tom McIntyre, however, was in top form. I was fortunate to witness one of the best catches of the day as Tom made a great diving catch to rob 29’s of at least one run. Though it was a fantastic catch, it wasn’t enough as 29’s went on to defeat 33’s, advancing them to the next round.
After a day filled with a lot of great fun and play, it finally boiled down to the last two teams standing to play the championship round. There, 64’s took on the red and gold of Fire Station 15. The first few innings went quickly, with each team giving it their all. Unfortunately, 15’s wasn’t able to match the tempo of their opponents, and by the fourth inning it was 4-0 in favor of 64’s. The bottom of the fifth brought more bad news for the Trojans as 64’s dealt the final blow with a two-run homerun.
All in all the day was filled with family fun and equally great food thanks to Mark Curry, Greg Pascola, and the rest of the culinary team. Special thanks also go out to all the sponsors, especially Brad Standage of Galloway Asset Management and the law team at Straussner & Sherman who were at the event all day long answering questions about financial management and legal matters.
Though Lane is not with us anymore, I still believe he would want us to remember the true reason why we all come together at the event that bears his name and what we represent when we do. The 2019 Lane Kemper Classic is less than a year away, but it’s never too late to do the right thing and walk the talk of camaraderie and volunteerism by supporting the Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firemen’s Fund–a language that Captain Lane Kemper spoke fluently!
Story by John Hicks
Photos by Deborah Lew, Eric Santiago & John Hicks