The Connection earns the Majors World Championship. Angel Armor Colorado wins Mid-Majors, Center Mass strikes Gold and Norsemen claim Silver. Goliath Slays David in the All-Star Game. Home Run King Marieo Foster is crowned.
The Connection World Champions
World Series XVII was once again held at the Big League Dreams facility in Las Vegas, Nevada. 66 teams representing over 30 states participated in the 4-day event, and overall it was a huge success.
The tournament theme was based on the television series Yellowstone so fittingly the event slogan was “Earn the Brand.” Not anyone can represent “The Brand.” To play in the police softball circuit you must be a full time police officer, probation officer, correctional officer, parole agent, federal agent etc. We are very strict with our eligibility and because of that, many feel there is no tighter brotherhood in softball or even law enforcement for that matter, than the brotherhood we share in police softball. Every October is like a high school reunion where you get to see your friends from across the country who you have likely not seen in person since the previous World Series. You can see the awe in the eyes of the first timers (rookies to the sport) who walk into the complex for the first time and are overtaken by the enormity of the event. This year encapsulated all that and more.
The Opening Ceremonies was very well attended and the guests were treated to a presentation of colors by the Las Vegas Metro Police Honor Guard along with the Canadian Police Honor Guard which consisted of members from the Northern Lawmen softball team based out of Toronto. Midwest Heat manager Dan McIntyre sung the national anthem for both the United States and Canada, and apparently all those karaoke sessions paid off because he nailed it. A somber taps bugler paid tribute to our fallen police softball brothers Tyler Timmins (Midwest Heat) and Cesar Echaverry (Miami 5-0). Representatives for both officers would also throw out the ceremonial first pitch of the tournament. The opening ceremonies were in conjunction with our player reception hosted by Garrett Metal Detectors and an estimated crowd of 1100 were in attendance.
Our season ending award winners were as follows:
Outstanding Police Officer of the Community (sponsored by Garrett Metal Detectors)- Brad Johnson, United Kansas City
Sponsor of the Year- Vaughan Garrett- Garrett Metal Detectors
Walt Conry Manager of the Year- Eric Abrams Kentucky Blue
Shevy Wright Sportsman of the Year- Justin Witt L&I Express
Defensive Player of the Year- Andrew Fenwick Maryland Outlaws
Player of the Year- Daniel McClement LAPD Blue
Del Pickney Lifetime Achievement Award- Dan Spinelli (posthumously) accepted by his wife Doreen.
We inducted several members into the Police Softball Hall of Fame, including the wives of policesoftball.com founders, Del and Jeff.
Butch Castor- Ohio Lawmen
Jeff Graus- Great Lakes
Brandon West- South Florida Lawmen
Scott Sizer- Missouri Lawmen
Jimmy Wolters- NY Hounds
Mike Panackia - Detroit PSC
Jaime Torres- Suffolk County Lawmen
Gary Shelley- El Dorado Lawmen
Javier Morando- Riverside Sheriff Force
Michele Pickney- PoliceSoftball.com
Anne Marie Blair- PoliceSoftball.com
Another theme of the tournament was David vs. Goliath. Essentially we wanted to focus on the little guys fighting off the big guys. We created an All Star game of David (Gold Division) All Stars to compete against the Goliath (Majors/MM) All Stars as the marquee game under the lights during the opening ceremony. In the beginning, the Goliath players seemed relatively uninterested in the actual competition…until it got late in the game and they were losing. You could feel some intensity brewing and one Goliath player commented, “We are the Majors All-Star team and we are losing to the Gold team, let’s go guys.” By the 5th inning the alpha male intensity broke through and both teams were “all in.” There was a one hour time limit and after time had expired the teams were tied. Tournament directors were about to call the game a tie, until the crowd started changing, “LET THEM PLAY, LET THEM PLAY” again and again. The PS management team is always focused on pleasing the masses so an extra inning was declared. Team David was unable to score which meant Team Goliath only needed one run. That run was cut down at home plate with a tag out and the game was down to one final out before a tie would be official. Instead, Team Goliath delivered a base hit with a runner on second that led to a close play at home plate. The runner slid in under the tag, and in doing so, Team Goliath slayed David.
While on the topic of David and Goliath we saw it play out again in the Dr. Charles Garrett Memorial Home Run Derby. Easton signature professional Marieo Foster is a very large man both on and off the field. In addition to being a professional softball player, he is a Police Chief which obviously qualifies him to play in the police softball circuit. Marieo, from the Mid Atlantic Lawmen team is always a favorite to advance to the finals, and this year he would not be denied. He was the first 50+ year old to make it to the final round, but this Goliath would be facing a formidable opponent in the form of David aka. Danny Higa from the LAPD Blue. Danny is a middle infielder and probably 50 lbs. lighter than Marieo but he was in a zone during the qualification rounds and advanced to the finals to face Marieo in the timed head to head contest. It was very close, but ultimately Goliath prevailed once again. Marieo posted 12 home runs to Danny’s 10. Marieo was crowned Home Run Derby King and was awarded an AR-15 patrol rifle courtesy of Bud’s Gun Shop. Being the quintessential professional, Marieo promptly donated his prize back to police softball to be raffled off for a law enforcement charity organization.
The tournament itself was consisted of pool play leading into double elimination bracket play. Bats were provided by Easton (Brett Helmer) and Elite (Carlos Vega). USSSA sanctioning and rules were employed once again for all 4 divisions: Majors, Mid-Majors, Gold and Silver.
There were 8 predetermined Majors teams and the remaining 24 upper level teams had to win their way in via pool play record to earn one of the 8 remaining berths. The “Big 8” that did not need to earn a berth based on their season performance and national ranking were: LAPD Blue, Great Lakes, Minnesota Lawmen, The Connection, Mid Atlantic Lawmen, Stanislaus Combo, New York Hounds and Maximum Elite. The 8 “at large” berths were earned by Kentucky Blue, DEA Combo, Sacramento Razorbacks, 172 Combo, Missouri Lawmen, Maryland Outlaws, State 48 Syndicate and Suffolk County Lawmen. The remaining 16 teams moved into the Mid Majors division playoffs. Of the at large teams, the Missouri Lawmen were drawing most of the attention as they looked very strong.
Of the Majors teams, the Suffolk team was truly a David surrounded by Goliath’s. Suffolk came into the tournament with a national ranking of 32, which was the lowest of all 32 teams in the upper division. They were on the verge of dropping into the Gold division prior to the event, but they had a decent showing at the East Coast Championships and maintained upper division status. They played inspired softball in pool play with upset victories over the L&I Express and the defending back-to-back Mid-Majors champions, Stanislaus Combo. This earned them a ticket to the big show, but along with that came a first game playoff matchup against the #1 ranked team in the nation and the two-time defending World champions, the LAPD Blue. LAPD Blue was heavily favored as they were loaded with a 25 man roster that was chocked full of USSSA conference players. Many of those conference players had just returned from the USSSA AA Worlds in Florida so they were firing on all cylinders. There is a reason why the game is played on the field and not based on press clippings and the Suffolk vs. LAPD Blue game would go down as the biggest upset in the history of the Police Softball World Series. Suffolk sent LAPD Blue into the loser bracket and in doing so, secured a Team David victory over a very big Team Goliath. Word is, when the Suffolk players made it back to the Golden Nugget hotel they were greeted with a standing ovation by other teams as word of the upset had spread like wildfire.
In a weekend of upsets some really good teams ended up in the loser bracket early including the Minnesota Lawmen and New York Hounds. Meanwhile a few of the top teams were performing as expected. The Great Lakes team led by USSSA conference pitcher Jeff “Biscuit” Graus was humming like a fine tuned engine and last year’s runners up, The Connection was cutting through the bracket like a buzzsaw. These two teams would be destined to meet in the undefeated game. In what was a chess match between these two very balanced teams, The Connection prevailed and found themselves exactly where they were one year ago. They were undefeated going into the championship game and would need to be double dipped. That is exactly what occurred last year, so some wondered if this would be their inspiration or perhaps their curse.
Arizona’s State 48 played exceptionally well, and ended up finishing inside the top 5 with a strong 4th place finish. The LAPD Blue made a valiant effort to run through the loser bracket but it was simply too many games in a row and the cagey pitching of Graus silenced their bats. The defending champs made a nice run, but wound up placing 3rd.
The championship saw a rematch of the undefeated game between Great Lakes and The Connection.
The game was a low scoring affair that featured top level pitching from Great Lakes and The Connection’s Steve Abina. Abina pitched to his defense as the Martins brothers shut down the middle infield. It was a well executed game and came down to the final inning with Great Lakes threatening. You could sense that The Connection players were determined not to have a repeat of last year so the last thing they wanted was an “IF” game. The defense tightened up and shut down the Great Lakes threat. When the final out was recorded The Connection players celebrated on the field as they were crowned Police Softball World Champions for the first time!
Majors Award Winners
Del Pickney MVP: Jorge Vina- The Connection
All World: Stephen Martins, Daniel Martins, Stephen Bautista- The Connection
Defensive MVP: Steve Abina- The Connection
Pat Hill Inspirational Award: Lucas Padranos
All World: Jeff Graus, Derick Ward, Ty Rubio- Great Lakes
All World: Buddy Lundy, Eric Mattos, Michael Dakken- LAPD Blue
Majors Division Results
1. The Connection
2. Great Lakes
3. LAPD Blue
4. State 48 Syndicate
5t. DEA Combo
5t. Mid Atlantic
7t. NY Hounds
7t. Missouri Lawmen
9t. Max Elite
9t. Kentucky Blue
9t. Sac Razorbacks
13t. 172 Combo
13t. Maryland Outlaws
Comparing Majors to Mid Majors is like splitting hairs at times. The Mid Majors teams can beat the Majors teams at any given time, but they likely could not do it over the course of a tournament. That said, the play of some of the Mids teams over the weekend was truly exceptional. A few teams that really stood out were Angel Armor out of Colorado, the Toronto based Northern Lawmen and San Antonio Law.
San Antonio had a really rough round robin draw and they were not in sync so they wound up as a lower seed in Mids. Whatever manager Trini Trinidad said to them must have been inspirational because after an early loss in the playoffs they began a march through the loser bracket that would go down as one of the most inspirational in the history of our sport. San Antonio had built themselves up from former Gold Division champions to a heavyweight contender and they were intent on being the first team to ever win Gold and Mid Majors championships. Standing in their way was the Northern Lawmen who finished runners up in Gold, Mids and Mids in their past THREE consecutive World Series performances. They were done with 2nd place and felt this was their year. Meanwhile, the team that exploded onto the scene a few short years ago, Angel Armor was sitting in the catbird seat, undefeated.
Just 3 short years ago Angel Armor won the Gold division. Then there was a COVID shut down and despite being promoted to Majors/Mids, the team continued to improve. Their West Coast Championship performance put everyone on notice that they were the real deal and based on the way they were playing, many felt it was their tournament to lose. San Antonio managed to deny the Northern Lawmen another 2nd place which set the stage for 2 former Gold division champions to square off in the Mid Majors championship. San Antonio would need to double dip Angel Armor and since Angel Armor was fresh, that would be a daunting task.
Angel Armor and San Antonio treated those in attendance to a barn burner of a game that ended up in extra innings. Both teams played impressive softball, but ultimately there can only be one champion and that title was claimed by Angel Armor. They walked it off in the bottom of the 9th inning and the only thing more impressive than their game execution was the ensuing celebration. The San Antonio team was a class act all along and afterward they huddled as a team and shared their thoughts on what they mean to one another as friends and teammates. There were teary eyes as they discussed their roller coaster ride through police softball and their managers (Trini Trinidad) struggle as he has battled cancer on and off for several years. As stated, there can only be one champion, but in this contest both teams walked away as winners.
Mid Majors Award Winners
Del Pickney MVP: Derrick Keeton- Angel Armor
All World: Daniel Millard, Josh Padilla, Steve Garcia- Angel Armor
Defensive MVP: Matt Green- Angel Armor
Pat Hill Inspirational Award: Joe Stadler- Angel Armor
All World: Manny Reyes, Andres Monterubbio, Vlaimar Gomez- San Antonio Law
All World: Dustin McGloughlin, Matt Pine, Matt Roy- Northern Lawmen
Mid Majors Results
1. Angel Armor
2. San Antonio law
3. Northern Lawmen
5t. Thin Blue Line
7t. North Florida
7t. L&I Express
9t. Miami Dawgz
9t. South Florida
9t. I-80 Cartel
9t. CA Classic Sports
13t. Houston Heat
13t. Team Texas
13t. BP Arsenal
13t. RSO Force
The Gold Division is always the largest division and this year was no exception. 36 teams competed in what has evolved into a highly competitive division. To those who were unfamiliar with police softball, they were unable to discern the difference between those final few Gold games and the Mid Majors/Majors games they had seen earlier in the day. Granted, not ALL the Gold teams played at this level but come Sunday, those who were still standing looked very impressive.
Ironically, the Swami’s crystal ball was very clear and made some very accurate predictions with Gold. The projected finish was 4. Lonestar 3. Sin City 2. Metro Detroit and 1. Center Mass. Instead Lonestar finished 5th (not 4th), Sin City was a direct hit finishing exactly as predicted, Metro Detroit was upset early and did not crack the top 5, but Center Mass delivered as the Swami had called and were declared World Champions.
Although they went undefeated through the playoffs, come the championship game, the surprising Midwest Heat turned UP the heat and handed them their first loss. Anytime a team forces an IF game, it seems you can feel a momentum shift and that is exactly the feeling in their rematch. Midwest Heat looked fresh, energized and ready to double dip the top ranked Gold team. Meanwhile, the Center Mass loss was not pretty. They blew through their homeruns by the 2nd inning and then struggled to score.
The IF game was a see-saw affair, but it seemed like Midwest Heat had the upper hand as they still had a homerun left in the tank and they were doing a good job of pelting the outfield gaps for extra base hits. Center Mass managed to stick around to keep it close all game, and when it got to the final inning, they ramped it up and did what champions do. They executed a flawless offensive plan and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Center Mass was crowned Gold Division World champions. Midwest Heat gave them all they had and had won over the hearts of many in attendance with their gutsy performance and their acceptance of defeat with class. Center Mass got to celebrate with a champagne shower, but they too showed the class of champions as they gave their respects to the Midwest Heat players prior to their celebration.
Gold Award Winners
Del Pickney MVP: Jay Rimes- Center Mass
All World: Randy Walker, Matt Kelley, Mike During- Center Mass
Defensive MVP: RD Lyon-Center Mass
Pat Hill Inspirational Award: Ryan Register-Center Mass
All World: Austin Braud, Eric Wetstein, Danny Johnson- Midwest Heat
All World: Andy Thatcher, Bruce Butcher, Zack Cambier- Sin City Saints
Gold Division Results
1. Center Mass
2. Midwest Heat
3. Sin City Saints
4. United Kansas City
5t. Arizona Blue Heat
7t. Team Louisiana
7t. Northwest Shakedown
9t. Chicago Metro
9t. Utah Metro
9t. Las Vegas G-Men
13t. Bay Area Combo
13t. Dayton Metro
13t. Metro Detroit's Finest
13t. Texas Fugitives
17t. Lock and Load Texas
17t. San Bernardino Hit Squad
17t. Mixed Nuts
17t. WC Lawmen
17t. Necessary Force
17t. Houston Hustle
25t. Honolulu's Finest
25t. SoCal Riot
25t. Toronto Takedown
25t. Front Line Enforcers
25t. Team Omerta
25t. Norsemen PSC
33t. Guard Dogs
33t. Direct Impact
The Silver Division is designed for newer teams trying to get established but every year we have a couple really good teams go cold in the Gold playoffs and drop down into Silver. This year, the Norsemen from Minnesota had a tough go and dropped to Silver. Team leader Brian Caron encouraged his team to take their lemon (Saturday) and turn it into lemonade on Sunday. That is just what they did. The team rolled through a tougher than usual Silver playoff to win 3 in a row to be declared Silver champions. They had to get be a veteran squad of seasoned PS players, the J-Cats out of NorCal. J-Cats gave them a run, but the Norsemen held them off. Peeling off 3 wins in a row before heading home and closing out the season is a great way to finish and the Norsemen can now use that momentum to build on this off-season.
Silver Award Winners
Del Pickney MVP: Mike Anderson- Norsemen PSC
All World: Jaydon Hawk, Brian Caron-Norsemen PSC
All World: Brenden Johnson, Anthony Humphries- J-Cats
1. Norsemen PSC
3t. Toronto Takedown
5t. Guard Dogs
5t. Direct Impact
5t. Front Line Enforcers
5t. Team Omerta
9t. Honolulu's Finest
9t. SoCal Riot
PS.COM might seem like a big corporation, in reality it is just JB, his wife Anne Marie, partner Ryan Coe, and Del’s wife Michele. Just four of us. Honestly, we could not have done it without everyone who helped pitching in. Huge shout out to Justin Witt who brought the ENTIRE Louisville Metro team out to the complex at 0530 hours on their off day (Thursday) to help us set up. Our ID checkers, Donny Meyer, Chris Jones, Shane Roach, Sergio Henao, Justin Camper, Dan Pleckham and Mike O’Neill took a lot of burden off of us in the director booth. Kevin Schoch coordinated the players party/sponsorship with Garrett Metal Detectors. Big Tone was our all-star as he relieved us of tourney director duties on Thu/Fri nights so we could get a few hours of sleep. Dan Potter did an outstanding job, as always, serving as our UIC. Mike Oneill, the Vin Scully of police softball, really makes the event feel special. One team commented that they hoped to win enough playoff games to make it to the marquee field so they could hear their name broadcast over the sound system. That is a tribute to Mike and how special he makes those games on Wrigley feel.
I am sure I have missed a few people in this paragraph but trust me, you are in our hearts. If it were not for those who put more into the game than they take away, we would not be successful. We have already inked the dates of Oct 12-15 (Thu-Sun) 2023 at the Vegas BLD. Same venue, same host hotel. The park managers said the facility is undergoing a major facelift and it should look amazing for WS XVIII. Majors Thu-Sat and Gold Fri-Sun just like this year.
Special shout out to all our event sponsors: Brett Helmer of Rawlings Sports, Carlos Vega of Elite, Buds Gun Shop, Garrett Metal Detectors, Sacramento Deputy Sheriff Association, Police Security Services, Dynamac Sports and The Med Lounge OC.
Jeff, AMB, Michele and Ryan aka PS.COM