2002 Vegas Fire Games Memorial Softball Tournament

By Ricky Hui
Las Vegas – The San Francisco Heat took our traveling softball show on the road down to Sin City for the 2002 Vegas Fire Games Annual Memorial Softball Tournament. This was the first, however, dedicated to our fallen brothers from the FDNY. Teams from New York, Columbus, Seattle, San Antonio, Houston, Tampa Bay, Los Angeles, just to name a few…80 teams from around the nation descended on Las Vegas for a week of softball, sun, fun and most importantly remembrance and reflection of all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice during the events of 9/11.

The week began with a moving evening program paying tribute to New York’s finest as well as a stunning pictorial exhibition of “Ground Zero.” You don’t realize how massive the destruction till you see some of the images close. An 8:00 game had our team up with a 6 am morning call and by 7 am, we were taking our batting practice at the field. Our pool play started with a 44 – 3 destroying of Seattle. We batted around three times in the 1st inning and it brought back horrible flashbacks of some of our own team’s humble beginnings. Our next game was against our neighbors from Tampa Bay, Florida. A gusty wind had our team going away from our game plan and we ended up scoring only 2 runs in a 15 – 2 rout. Our third game of the day was against a team of monsters from Columbus, Ohio. They looked more like a team of inmates rather than fireman, how they got all their shackles off, I’ll never know…(just kidding). We jumped out to a 14 – 4 lead, but our bats went silent for the last 3 innings…a missed double play opportunity opened the door for them and they eventually tied the game with their own 9 run inning. After giving up the go ahead run, we went quietly in the 7th and lost 17 – 16. The loss proved to be critical as we ended up the 3rd seed instead of the 1st seed out of our pool…and in the finest San Francisco tradition, we did not let the loss deter us from drinking and partying the night away.

Our first game in the tournament was against one of the New York teams, (NYPO)…let’s just say, they scored more runs in the first inning than we did the whole game. Badly outplayed, I’m sure we didn’t impress our east coast counterparts with a 21 – 7 loss. Our first game in the loser bracket was against LA County. They jumped out to a 9 – 0 lead, as it seemed we were still smarting from our blowout vs. NY. We finally broke through for runs in the top of the 6th and in the 7th, had a game-winning rally in the works when fate shined down on us. Two LA players collided in spectacular “you gotta see this…” fashion and the team, with only 7 players left was unable to continue. With the pressure of a “2 and out” showing gone, we played our 3rd consecutive game of the day vs. LA City Sandlot. The Heat’s bats finally loosened up and finally hit the ball like I know we can…and a 20 – 9 win. We had barely enough time to even celebrate when we needed to pack up and head over to another field for another game. Climbing up through the loser’s bracket is tough and we had Portland, Oregon in our way. Portland jumped out early with an 11 – 3 lead after 2 innings. Trailing 15 – 5 going into the bottom half of the 6th, our team put up 9 runs and trailed by only 1. But, after Portland scored 3 runs after 2 outs in the top of the 7th, our run finally ended and we were eliminated 18 – 14.

The SF Heat unleashed ourselves on Vegas. I personally slept for no more than 3 hours out of the next 48 for the rest of the trip in Vegas! Clubs, casinos, drinks, buffets and watching our other SF team take 3rd in a tough 39 + division. And then more buffets, drinks, casinos and clubs. As we took off from Vegas on Friday morning, I finally got a chance to reflect on New York, firefighting, and softball. I will try not to take any “run” for granted because every “run” could be my/our last. I will try to remember that firefighters are meant to be a breed apart. We have been given the rare opportunity to be real-life heroes and finally, everytime I run onto the softball field, feel the grass under my feet, the smell of spring, and the sunshine. I will be thankful for my brothers and honored to be in the greatest profession in the world. See you all in Vegas next year!


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