Aurora team brings home softball gold from World Police and Fire Games
By Denise Crosby firstname.lastname@example.org August 14, 2013 12:16PM
Nine Aurora police officers and one retired firefighter made up the team that won the gold medal in softball at the World Police and Fire Games in Belfast, Northern Ireland. | Submitted
Updated: August 15, 2013 8:44AM
They went across the ocean as a local softball team.
But when the group of nine Aurora police officers and one retired firefighter returned last week from Belfast, Northern Ireland, they were world champs.
Led by its captain Alvin Soto, an evidence technician with the APD, the team picked up the gold medal for softball at the World Police and Fire Games held every other year in cities around the globe. The competition brings together up to 10,000 athletes from 67 countries competing in 56 sports.
While Aurora teams have taken home the gold in years past — including a 2011 dodgeball championship — this is the first claim to a softball title. This group, whose members have played with each other, as well as in different leagues, for over a decade, traveled to the Games in New York City in 2011, said Soto. But when Hurricane Irene landed, “we turned around and came home.”
Getting in on the action early, no doubt, helped in their quest for world dominance. Softball (12-inch, by the way) was added to the World Police and Fire Games only five years ago, and in many countries it’s not played enough to be represented by those nations in the games, said Soto.
This was Aurora’s year, at least in the senior men’s division, for those over 35 years of age. In addition to Soto, Aurora members included Sgt. Matt Thomas, Officer Todd Edwards, Officer Mark Johnson, Sgt. Brian Pierce, Sgt. Matt Ziman, Lt. Keefe Jackson, Officer Jim Brown, former Commander Mike Langston and retired Fire Lt. Gary Avram.
(And here’s a good place to note that kudos go to retired Office Chuck Van Horn, who also brought home a gold medal, teaming up with two cops from Milwaukee in the 3-on-3 basketball contest).
The softball team went undefeated in the competition that was held from Aug. 1 to 10, beating a team from Toronto in the championship game last Friday. Only one injury was reported, by the way, a pulled hamstring. Sgt. Thomas considered that pretty darn lucky considering they are a bunch of guys “who don’t think they need to stretch out,” despite their advancing years.
Both Soto and Thomas were wowed by the overall experience of traveling and competing in Northern Ireland, where the people are friendly and the scenery breathtaking. Add to that the opportunity to meet and play against police and fire colleagues from across the globe, “it was pretty awesome,” said Thomas.
Topping out the trip, of course, was coming home with gold medals around their necks.
“You want to go over and represent well,” he added. “Winning it all is even better.”