Foster Children Get $9,000 with Help from City’s Bravest
By: Nicol P. Juratovac
The San Francisco Fire Department’s informal co-ed team helped raise $9,000 for some of the City’s neediest children over a warm but windy May weekend. This squad of San Francisco’s Bravest provided hope to the City’s socially and economically-disadvantaged youths by “going to bat for them” both literally and figuratively in the 16th Annual City Workers’ Children’s Fund Softball Tournament.

2005’s tournament theme was “Playing with Heart” wherein over 20 City departments mustered their ball-playing employees at Moscone (a la “Funston” for all you old-timers) Park. A huge crowd of friends, family, and other spectators gathered to watch players ranging from softball addicts to weekend warriors. The various barbeques that were arranged were also noteworthy and conducive to a fun-filled weekend packed with launching batted balls and diving catches.

This annual tournament contributes to a fund that was established in 1986 by the Child Welfare Workers of the San Francisco Human Services Department in order to meet some of the needs of abused, neglected, and or exploited foster children. The fund provides for the special individual needs of these children that are not normally provided by public funds. These individual needs include sending an aspiring teen to dance or music lessons, taking a young athlete to a sporting event, or purchasing a home computer for a child with cerebral palsy. Recently, the fund paid for a prom dress for a graduating high school senior.

The fund also provides scholarship money for higher education expenses to foster children who elect to pursue college and are faced with the high cost of tuition. Thus far, the fund has assisted 14 young adults to graduate from four year colleges. Satisfying some of the relatively simple needs can make a tremendous difference in a young person’s life and build up his/her self-esteem.

Over 4,000 children in San Francisco are reported every year to being abused, neglected, or exploited, and many of them are usually in foster care. Oftentimes, these children are separated from any family support and are active cases of Child Protective Services. To help minimize the trauma that these children undoubtedly endure, the fund was established to provide opportunities to enrich their lives and recognize their positive growth and enrichments.

In this endeavor, the men and women of the SFFD played a total of eight games, coming up one game short of winning the tournament. The battle for first place began Saturday morning at 0800 hours (ouch!) against the Department of Parking and Traffic. Fire easily run-ruled the parking enforcement officers 19-4.

Sunday’s games commenced with a very tough team representing the community. This team was sponsored by Potrero Hill’s own Connecticut Yankee (CY) Bar and Restaurant. To the perplexity of many spectators, CY entered the tournament with a team that had been ranked fifth in the co-ed “B” Nationals just last year. Admittedly, many wondered what a team of this caliber was doing playing in a recreational charity co-ed softball tournament. But rumor had it that some members of CY wanted to dispel Fire’s long-running reputation of being a power house in this tournament. In fact, it was clear that CY was focused on getting their name on the championship trophy next to the nearly 11 years of Fire’s first place finishes.

From 1990, when the tournament first began, Fire dominated year after year until a shocking second place finish in 2001 when Fire was unfairly eliminated from the championship game amidst a plethora of controversial calls favoring the Adult Probation team. Subsequent to that year, Fire has been unable to field enough players for this tournament (many players play on other teams and are committed to tournaments that occur during the same weekend). Even when Fire had been able to muster enough players, Fire continued to face teams representing the community that have mounted an aggressive attack against the long time tourney champs.

Upon landing in the losers’ bracket early Sunday morning thanks to CY, Fire walked over the rest of the teams with run rules generated against the Sheriffs, Park and Rec, Department of Public Works, Beast of Bourbon (another community team), and Fire’s old rivals, Adult Probation. Subsequent to having played a total of six games on Sunday, Fire once again met up with CY in the championship game.

Faced with the completely manageable task of beating CY twice for the championship trophy, Fire got pumped up with solid offensive production and the one-two combination on the hill by hurlers Jack Taylor (M13) and Bob Navarro (Special Operations). Greg Zanders (T19) swung a powerful bat that was at times, mighter than the halligan. That, coupled with Jennifer DeBerry’s south paw action at first base helped secure some big outs. Slick fielding at the hot corner demonstrated by Chet Spirlin (T7) kept each inning tenable, while short stop Andre Brown (T13) scooped up each ground ball better than a scoop shovel. Maiko Bristow (M41) and Dwayne Curry (E29) were the two speedsters who motored around the bags almost quicker than Al Gughemetti (SFFD ret.) driving Engine 3. All the while, Nicol Juratovac (E7) and Janeen Pirosko (E38) delivered with solid hits not unlike hitting the seat of the fire with a smooth bore pipe. And Kerry Mann (M17) acted as the perfect utility player, ready at a moment’s notice to come in and play a position, very much like a firefighter who happens to have the right tool for the job.

Unfortunately, the hitting force of CY proved to be too much for Fire’s noble attempt, resulting in a final score of 10-7 and a disappointing, but respectable, second place finish.

This year’s squad truly represented the incredible fire department talent of today with players assigned to suppression, EMS, Fire Investigation, and Special Operations, as well as three pick-up players who are currently interested in a career in the fire and emergency services. And, of course, Gughemetti led the troops with his extensive knowledge of the game coaching third base and providing overall leadership.

Not only did the team enjoy a healthy dose of competitive ball, but the men and women of the SFFD displayed itself as a class act. In fact, some of the members even had opportunities to distribute recruitment pamphlets to individuals who expressed interest in the profession of fire and emergency services.

Special thanks are in order to all the players, family, and friends, as well as to our very own Fire Chief, Joanne Hayes-White, for lending her support in the midst of a very very busy Sunday afternoon. Extra special thanks are in order to Spirlin , as he was responsible for mustering enough men players while Juratovac made sure that Fire had enough women players to secure a competitive showing.

Top Row (L to R): Kristin Glenchur (ringer), Nicol “Nic” Juratovac (E7), Jennifer “JT” DeBerry (BFI), Robert “Bobby” Navarro (Special Operations), Janeen “Gigi” Pirosko (E38), Joanne Hayes-White (CD1), Dwayne “D” Curry (E29), Maiko “Maik” Bristow (M41), and Jack Taylor (M13).

Bottom Row (L to R): Maureen “Mo” Murray (ringer), Greg “Z” Zanders (T19), Chet “Big Dog” Spirlin (T7), Andre “Dre” Brown (T13), and Kerry Mann (M17).

Photo provided by Nicol P. Juratovac


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