The 14th Annual PoliceSoftball World Series brought out the best from every player, coach and fan attending. In a addition to great camaraderie and top-notch athleticism, everyone took the opportunity to celebrate the memory of
PoliceSoftball Co-Founder Del Pickney.
Representing the cream of the crop of law enforcement softball from across the nation, 87 teams took to the field to show their talent. The weekend resulted in Champions in 5 Divisions, a new Home Run King, and 13 new Hall of Fame Inductees.
The Police Softball World Series XIV was bittersweet this year because my best friend and partner who created the event, Del Pickney passed away earlier this year. Although it was great to see so many friends and to be greeted with hugs and words of encouragement, it simply was not the same without Del. Teams from all over the nation paid tribute to Del in some form or another. Many had has number, #34 on their uniforms, some hung banners, while others wore wristbands. Del's wife Michele commented that she was glad to see he had such a positive impact on so many people.
That was evident during the opening ceremony when Michele threw out the first pitch to her good friend, Rick Tirelli, who Del met through softball while coaching against Rick's NYPD Blues team. The Pickney's daughters, Ryan and Rachel stood by Michele while about 2 dozen former SoCal Alliance members stood behind her as she delivered the first pitch. Del and I were co-founders of the SoCal Alliance back in 2002 and that team won five (5) World Championships before folding in 2016. To put things in perspective, no other team has won more than one championship. More on that later.
The following players were inducted into the Police Softball Hall of Fame:
Ron Breeden- Capitol City Lawmen
Scott Czopek - Great Lakes/Michigan Lawmen
Brian Key - Ohio Lawmen
Calvin Johnson - Ohio Lawmen/M050
Dave Masi - Shamrock Enforcers
Brett Parnell - Jacksonville Police Softball Club
Matt Woolf - Dayton Metro
Darrel Boyles - Sacramento Razorbacks
Mike Mayer - Cal Quake/ Concord Combo
Cameron Anderson -Sacramento Razorbacks
Gabe Rodriquez - LAPD Blue
Bill Judd - Northwest Shakedown
Darin Pometta-Sacramento Razorbacks
The Dr. Charles Garrett Memorial homerun derby had an amazing prize package including a custom handgun and a 2019 model Helmer Blue Line bat courtesy of event sponsors Paul Chavez and Brett Helmer. In the finals, Canadian Dustin McLoughlin bested LAPD's Adam Nikolic to earn the title of Home Run King. Dustin became the first champion to bring the crown home north of the border. The exhibition derby, "pros vs Joes" was entertaining simply because it was fun to see just how hard and far the pros could launch balls through the night air. Eddie Vega of Easton and Denny Crine of Miken did not disappoint the crowd of over 1,500 in the grand finale of the ceremony.
The Masters Division (40+) is becoming increasingly popular and although the players might be a pound or two heavier and a step or two slower, the caliber of ball they exhibited was top notch. This year came down to a rematch of last year's championship between the defending champs, the Dirty Lawmen (New Jersey) and West Coast 40's (SoCal). West Coast 40's were firing on all cylinders and rolled through the tournament undefeated to win yet another championship.
1.West Coast 40's
5t.Border Patrol Arsenal
West Coast 40's
Del Pickney MVP: Keith Habig
All World: Bryan Schmidt, Jerry Boyd, Andy Williams
Pat Hill Inspirational Award: Kris Ulibarri
Defensive MVP: Rob Menke
All World: Warren Rivell, Jamie Torres, Shawn McDonnell
The open tournament was divided into three divisions, Majors, Mid-Majors and Gold. The Gold Division was the largest boasting 40 teams from over 30 states (including Canada). The typical powerhouse Gold teams handled business in the round robin by going undefeated and they earned top seeds in the playoffs: Metro Detroit's Finest, Familia, Northwest Shakedown, Miami Metro Dawgz, Norsemen PSC and Team Louisiana. That was expected. What wasn't expected was the emergence of previously unknown teams who had everyone talking, specifically Damage Factory out of Colorado and Goodyear PD out of Arizona.
When it got down to the final 5, the Miami Metro Dawgz looked like the team to beat as they were playing amazing fundamental softball. That changed when they ran into a buzzsaw known as Team Louisiana who were relentless on offense. Miami was sent into the loser bracket where they dispatched the rookie squad, Damage Factory before falling to another rookie squad, Goodyear. Goodyear was riding a hot hand and the championship game came down to a Rocky vs. Apollo matchup (original Rocky) where the unknown underdog (Goodyear) was facing an established champion (Louisiana). That is a bit of an embellishment because Louisiana has never won the event before, but they typically land somewhere inside the top 5 year after year. Their coach, Jody White guaranteed they would not be denied this year, but things began to look bleak after dropping the championship game to Goodyear. That set up an "IF" game, and Goodyear definitely had the momentum. Ultimately, Jody held good to his promise as Team Louisiana played some inspired softball to narrowly defeat Goodyear 15-13. In doing so, Team Louisiana claimed their first World Championship.
1 Team Louisiana
2 Goodyear PD
3 Miami Metro Dawgz
4 Damage Factory
T5 Toronto Takedown
T5 Metro Detroit
T7 Chicago Metro
T7 RSO Force
T9 Norsemen PSC
T9 Center Mass
T13 Lock and Load
T13 Texas Guns
T13 South Florida Lawmen
T17 El Dorado Cartel
T17 DVI Gladiators
T17 NorCal Warriors
T17 Mixed Nutz
T17 High Desert Law Dawgz
T17 Iowa Lawmen
T17 Houston Heat
T24 San Francisco Seals
T24 Midwest Heat
T24 Honolulu's Finest
T24 KC United
T24 Dayton Metro
T24 Northwest Shakedown
T24 Gold Combo
T32 Oakland PD
T32 Yard Recall
T32 Loose Screws Eh
T32 LAPD Shot Callers
T32 Steel City Enforcers
T32 Guard Dogs
Del Pickney MVP: Eloy Corejo
All World: Ed Scott, Alonzo Ned, Roy Meaders
Pat Hill Inspirational Award: Jordy Taylor
Defensive MVP: Doyle Westbrook
All World: Gary Chaney, Jason Brennan, Matt Barnes
Miami Metro Dawgz
All World: Hunter Grimm, Robbie Nelson, Joel Capote
The Silver Division was a drop down for the Gold teams who finished in 32nd place. This is designed for station level or up and coming teams. When the Steel City Enforcers dropped into Silver, the belief was they would steamroll their opponents and win with ease. That ended up not being the case as the Steel City squad was eliminated in the first round. Instead, the championship came down to two NorCal based teams, Oakland PD and Aftermath. These teams had traded wins and losses all year, but on the big stage, it was Aftermath who closed out the season in victory.
2 Oakland PD
T3 LAPD Shot Callers
T3 Yard Recall
T5 Team Omerta
T5 Loose Screws Eh
T5 Steel City Enforcers
T5 Guard Dogs
Del Pickney MVP: Louie Ramirez
All World: Johnny Clingerman, Frank Rivera, Ricky Correa
Pat Hill Inspirational Award: Adam Watt
Defensive MVP: Noel Roberts
All World: Darwin Tellez, Brock Kyler, Derek Desmet
MID MAJORS DIVISION
The Majors and Mid-Majors teams were bracketed together in the round robin games, but come playoff time all teams were separated by classification. As typical, there were some "upsets" in the round robin as two Mid-Majors teams, Nitro 2 Go Hitmen and Stanislaus Combo each beat two majors teams to win their brackets. Thin Blue Line and North Florida Showdown finished 1 & 2 respectively to advance to the Majors playoffs and in doing so they pushed Kentucky Blue and Suffolk County into the Mid-Majors mix.
The Northern Lawmen based out of the greater Toronto region have only been active in the circuit for a few short years, but they have steadily improved each year. It was just 2 years ago when they advanced to the Gold Division championship game where they were defeated by San Antonio Law. What was most impressive is they made it that far in first season as a team. Last year they got promoted to Mid-Majors where they looked impressive but didn't appear to have the firepower to compete with the big dogs in the division. They bolstered their line-up this past off-season and they came to the World Series loaded. They were cutting through the winners bracket undefeated like a hot knife through butter and eventually earned a ticket to the dance (championship game) where they would need to be double-dipped.
It seemed playing the championship game was only a formality before crowning the Northern Lawmen champs because their opponents, Border Patrol Arsenal had been playing back to back to back without a break as they mowed through the loser bracket. The veteran squad, Arsenal got knocked into the loser bracket in a 2nd round loss to Arizona Ablaze. But, once in the loser bracket Arsenal caught fire and defeated Team Galvez, San Antonio Law, Suffolk County, Kentucky Blue and Stanislaus Combo in order to advance to the 'ship. Arsenal's players were exhausted, but they played lights out and defeated the Northern Lawmen to force an "IF" game. Despite playing 6 games in a row without a break, they entered the "IF" game (their 7th in a row) with newfound swagger. You could literally feel a momentum shift and Arsenal was now in the driver's seat. Arsenal came out swinging from the heels and soundly defeated the Northern Lawmen 30-16 to be declared Mid-Majors World Champions. This was by far Arsenal's biggest accomplishment as a team and coach Eddy Leal was beaming with pride.
1 Border Patrol Arsenal
2 Northern Lawmen
3 Stanislaus Combo
4 Kentucky Blue
T5 AZ Ablaze
T5 Suffolk County
T7 San Antonio Law
T7 Nitro 2 Go Hitmen
T9 Maryland Outlaws
T9 Cali Force
T9 Team Galvez
T13 Gov X
T13 Utah Metro
T13 LA Lawmen
T13 SoCal Riot
Border Patrol Arsenal
Del Pickney MVP Award: Gabe Lara
All World: PJ Leon, Juan Ontiveros, Garrett Kizinkiewicz
Pat Hill Inspirational Award: Eddie Leal
Defensive MVP: Juan Ontiveros
All World: Peter Shearer, John Beck, Matty Smith
All World: Travis Hudson, Kyle Briggs, Scott Block
The Majors Division boasts the 16 best teams in the nation. Many of these teams have players on their roster who are recognizable names in the U.S.S.S.A. Conference. Watching these games is very entertaining due to the speed of the game, execution of defense and the display of bat control by our sports elite players.
Headed into the series, the LAPD Blue was the clear-cut favorite as they had been the most consistent team in the nation all season. They were stacked with an All-Star lineup and could literally field two highly competitive Majors caliber teams. If I were a betting man and was offered LAPD Blue or the field, I would have picked the Blue. But, games are not played on paper or in concept, they are gutted out on the field. In this instance, had I been a betting man, I would have lost my shorts.
The LAPD Blue were done early and finished tied for 9th which left the championship wide open. Many teams breathed a silent sigh of relief because Goliath had been slayed. The defending champions, Mid Atlantic did not fare much better at 7th, so the remaining teams knew there would be a new champion come Sunday evening. One of California's fastest rising teams, CenCal Connection got eliminated early (7th) by their more senior rivals, the Left Coast Empire. The New York Hounds had been the most consistent Eastern team this season and they were playing at a high level. The seasoned Minnesota Lawmen looked especially strong. Former World Champions, DEA Combo was quietly advancing through the winner's bracket despite coming into the event without much hype.
It eventually came down to two teams that had been friendly rivals since 2002. The DEA Combo has the longest history of success of any team in California, and arguably the nation. They were back in the 'ship once again, but would need to double dip the Left Coast Empire who were unblemished in the tournament.
The Left Coast Empire was using a different name and uniforms, but make no mistake, this was the veteran SoCal Alliance team in disguise. The Empire all had the team founder Del Pickney's badge number on their jersey, and based on the way they played, you could sense that Del was with them in spirit.
Del loved his Alliance team and although he turned over the reigns to the team several years ago, he still bled Alliance orange all the way up until his death. Del died on a remote hiking trail in Claremont, Ca. which happens to be the city where Del's close friend, and Alliance poster child Mike Snyder worked as a police officer. The day Del died, Mike did not want Del's body to be alone without friends so he rallied as many local softball brothers as possible and they held vigil on the trail until his body was removed by the coroner. They then formed an impromptu motor escort all the way to the mortuary before redirecting to Del's house to comfort his wife.
Going into the championship, the Empire was short-handed and battered. The team's middle infielder Bryan Schmidt tore his pectorals muscle and the entire right side of his upper body was a brilliant shade of purple. But, he played regardless. The team played "inspired" ball, and posted a final score of 27-7 to win the Police Softball World Series Championship. For veteran Kris Ulibarri it was his 6th World Championship and it established him as our sports version of Michael Jordan. After the victory there were as many tears as there were smiles as the team celebrated by popping champagne and mugging for selfies. A quick reflection back on the final score was haunting... 27-7... the sum being #34. Irony or destiny?
1 Left Coast Empire
2 DEA Combo
3 New York Hounds
4 Minnesota Lawmen
T5 Ohio Lawmen
T5 Nassau Blues
T7 CC Connection
T7 Mid Atlantic Lawmen
T9 Missouri Lawmen
T9 North Florida Showdown
T9 Thin Blue Line
T9 LAPD Blue
T13 Shamrock Enforcers
T13 Great Lakes Lawmen
T13 Team Texas
Left Coast Empire
Del Pickney MVP Award: Eric Harryman
All World: Mike Snyder, Bryan Schmidt, Tommy Hayes
Pat Hill Inspirational Award: Kris Ulibarri
Defensive MVP: Keith Habig
All World: Justin Ankeney, Chad Howard, Robert Mason
New York Hounds
All World: Duke Settoducato, Rich Gili, Nicky Verderosa
Message from Jeff, Ryan, Michele and Anne Marie:
We want to thank each and every one of you who came up to booth and showed support for Michele as it was a difficult weekend for her.
We must also thank our event sponsors, specifically Brett Helmer/Easton and Denny Crine and Jason Kendrick/Miken-Worth who provided the bats for the event and contributed to the amazing prize packages.
Carlos Vega from Elite Sports is more than just a sponsor, he is a friend to the law enforcement community. He, along with Midwest Heat leader (DynaMac) Dan McIntyre donated over $2,000 to our fundraiser to start a scholarship in Del's name.
Paul Chavez was Del's high school friend and he donated two dozen Rockwell watches, and two amazing custom handguns.
Big League Dreams and their amazing staff led by Ed Farmer, TJ Lombardi and Chris Devlin were on top of their game as always. On behalf of Big League Dreams they donated $500 toward the scholarship.
Our U.I.C. team, Ernie and Nicole Ono from U.S.S.S.A. are the hardest working tandem in the game as they logged more hours at the park than anyone else.
Softball Magazine needs to be mentioned because they have been there by our side since the beginning. Bud's Gun Shop sponsored our Hall of Fame program and we are now set on challenge coins for years.
Garrett Metal Detectors and Kevin Schoch were major players in our opening ceremonies and HR Derby.
Thanks goes to the Las Vegas Metro Honor Guard and the Canadian Police Honor Guard for making the opening ceremonies so memorable.
Speaking of memorable, the singing performance by Annabel Skala (Arizona Ablaze) was striking as she belted out both the US and Canadian Anthems.
The Golden Nugget Hotel continues to do a great job accommodating our guests at reasonable rates.
As always, thanks to SCDSA president Kevin Mickelson and his partner Anthony Costanzo for sponsoring our year end award winner plaques.
A special shout out goes to our Competition Committee who logged countess hours at the booth checking identification cards, handing out bracelets, setting up, breaking down, and distributing softballs to the coaches.
We could not have done it without you. We look forward to seeing you all next year, 2nd weekend of October like always, at Big League Dreams Las Vegas for World Series XV.