Officially, it may be fall, but it felt like a perfect summer day on the sand in Santa Monica during the Firemen’s Over-the-Line Tournament. The unique sport, which mixes elements of softball and . . . um . . . playing hooky from school, makes for a perfect way to raise money for your Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firemen’s Fund.
For organizer Engineer Bill Bringas, the playful spirit of the activity is the whole point. He said, “It’s just a fun thing to do.” (He’s not the only one who feels that way. Thousands pack the beach in San Diego for the annual over-the-line world championship.)
And thanks to the firemen’s event sponsors, such as Subway in Westwood and Karen Paek from Foresters, funds raised can go directly to the charity. Bill said, “All the money that we get from registration and the shirt [sales] goes straight to Widows & Orphans.”
Captain I Chris Villavicencio has played in the tournament every year and also participates in other over-the-line competitions in Southern California. For him, the Firemen’s Over-the-Line Tournament is a great way to spend the day without some of the rigors of a regular softball game. He said, “It’s the same thing with a bat and ball, but a different technique, different scoring, different attire.”
In fact, most came to the sport via softball. Apparatus Operator Russ Barnes has also played each year of the firemen’s tournament. He enjoys the relaxed vide offered by the beach sport and his team takes full advantage of it in an effort to nab the coveted Best Theme and Best Team Name prizes. He said, “Our team is always out here and we’re usually wearing something goofy.”
This year, the team called K-Town’s Finest walked away with the winner’s trophy and bragging rights. They’ll be back next time to defend their title.
Apparatus Operator Sean Millett, who’ll take over coordinating the event after Bill retires, plans on adding another annual date in the spring at one of the area’s southern beaches. He hopes that will help boost participation for future events because he thinks a lot of firefighters are simply missing a great opportunity. “You live in Southern California playing [softball] on the beach,” he said, “is there anything better than that?”
By David Vienna, LAFRA Staff