For the second year in a row, the Lane Kemper Classic Softball Tournament was held at the beautiful Chino Hills Big League Dreams complex in Chino Hills, California. Last year the event was played on July 21, even though the Covid epidemic was still on everyone’s mind. Fast forward a year—Covid is still around, but seemingly less of a concern. With mask restrictions eased, two dozen teams showed up at the gates bright and early, ready to play and enjoy the ever-present LAFD camaraderie. The champs from Fire Station 46 tried to return to defend their title, but unfortunately, they waited a little too long and all the slots had been filled—sorry. Station 29, the second-place finishers from last season, did make the list hoping to extract a little vengeance for their heartbreaking loss to the crew at Station 46. Win, lose. or draw, everyone in attendance knew why they were really there—to support the Widows, Orphans and Disabled Firefighters Fund and The Los Angeles Firemen’s Relief Association.
Even though traffic was heavy on the roads leading to the event, people started gathering outside the gates early in anticipation of a great day of fun. Valerie Lawrence and her team of volunteers were first to step through the gates as they readied themselves to set up the venue for all to enjoy. Like last year, an early wake up thanks goes out to retired Captain Steve Berkery for picking up the trailer and hauling all the required gear down to the complex in time for the event. Members of the Relief Association staff were there waiting for him, ready to start putting everything together for the day’s event. The donated items from our generous donors began to fill the tables at the entrance of the complex for all to see and bid on. Generosity was in abundance on this day, allowing the Relief Association to continue its work of helping those in need when called upon.
With the gates to the park now open, a huge effort was made to capture all the team’s photos to be displayed in this article for you to enjoy. Though not successful getting everyone at the beginning of the day, Relief staff, along with volunteers, hunted down the ones they missed, and by day’s end, most were caught on film, or at least digitally. Sorry to those who made late relief and were not able to be in the photos. One of the early highlights of the day is seeing what team will show up in the best team t-shirt/jersey. This year’s t-shirt standout was – from this writer’s opinion—Station 21. Second place went to Station 61, with Fire Station 94’s entry coming in a close third. Of course, everyone had their favorites—which one was yours?
Now, where would we be without the fans cheering on their favorite teams? Each team brought their own cheerleaders with them, filling seats and making this year another family-friendly event as the teams gathered on the main field to begin the play. After the opening ceremonies, the teams went to their assigned fields and the ball-playing began. Firefighters being Firefighters, competition got the best of some and some tempers flared early in the day, but cooler heads finally prevailed as all left as friends.
If you have never been, the Big League Dreams complex in Chino Hills is a beautiful place to hold such an event. Multiple manicured fields incircle two clubhouse type structures where guests are able to get hot food and cold drinks all day long. Where there wasn’t shade, tents and easy-ups were erected to supply some. The boys from Galloway Asset Management were on scene to answer any nagging financial questions the players may have had in between innings. Thanks to Brad Sherman and ? for their time and generous donation to the Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firefighters Fund. Other sponsors of the event were Lewis, Marenstein, Wicke, Sherwin & Lee, Elite Island Resorts and the Law Office of Straussner & Sherman. See a complete list of our other valuable sponsors below. Thank you to all who continue to make this a charitable-minded event.
Being one of those caught in traffic, I missed the beginning ceremonies, but was immediately caught up in the action as I passed by the first field and personally witnessed a miraculous catch by Fire Station 26’s left fielder—Will Isozaki. Very well played. Other plays through the day were on par, but that one just stood out. After a great day of fun, food and a lot of softball play, it finally came down to the final game featuring the crews from Fire Stations 29 and 61. It was a hard-fought game, especially after playing so many games before to get there, but the crew from Fire Station 29 came on strong in the 5th and 6th innings and topped their opponents 14 to 3. Better luck next time, 61. Thank you to all the teams for participating.
Fire Station 29 Winning Team Members are:
• Raul Cabrera
• Travis Rice
• Jake Eccles
• Aaron Roupoli
• Casey Glynn
• Christopher Swailes
• Salvador Manzo
• Matthew Rush
• Daniel Torres
• Jacob Horrine
• Todd Bringhurst
• Dana Castro
• Salvador Diaz
• Blake Matthews
• Cody Crippen
We want to acknowledge all the members that participated in the games whether you played or not—especially the volunteers who made this event happen. Once again thank you to Keith Bandy and Valerie Lawrence for their tireless commitment to excellence year after year. Lastly, congratulations to this year’s victors and champs—Fire Station 29. Hope to see you and everyone else next year at the Big Leaue Dreams!
In your memory, Lane!
Sponsors—Galloway Financial, Lewis, Marenstein, Wicke, Sherwin & Lee. LLP, Straussner & Sherman, Councilperson John Lee, Elite Island Resorts, Good Year, Autry Museum, Benihana, BJ’S, Brents Deli, Bruce Galien, John Hicks, Cheryl Smith Lee, Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort, Edgewater OR Aquarius in Laughlin, Halpert Fine Art, Hilton LA/ Universal City, Huntington Library—Museum Gardens, In N Out, Island Packers, Kristine & Keith Barrett, LA County Fair, Laemmle, Mark Kemper, Miracle Spring Resorts & Spa, New Orleans Riverboat, New Orleans Steamboat, Noel Labac Estrada, Pacific Park—Santa Monica Pier, Petersen Automotive Museum, Pinks Hot Dogs, Pittsburgh Steelers, PRP Wines, Richard Nixon Presidential Library, Santa Ana Zoo, Sharkey’s Wood Fired Mexican Grill, Sky Dive Santa Barbara, Splash Café, Think Boutique Real Estate, Total Wine and More, Universal Studio Tour, Valerie Lawrence