Team Profile: So Cal Fire
|The So Cal Fire won rings in the 50-and-over Central and American Divisions in 2009 and 2010.
By Steve LaMontia, MSBLNational.com
Getting a ball team to a major tournament like the MSBL World Series is a big job. There are players to recruit, forms to fill, money to collect, itineraries to create, meetings to attend and phone calls to make.
Doing this even once is a monumental achievement. Meet So Cal Fire manager Jay Ciambrone. He's done it 25 times and counting. Ciambrone created the So Cal Yankees, later known as the Fire, in 1988 -- just in time to participate in the very first MSBL World Series, and he hasn't missed a World Series since.
While some teams aren't happy unless they win it all, the Fire is cut from a different cloth. Ciambrone brings new guys to the league every year who hope to be able to play in the Arizona World Series. The So Cal Fire's competitive recipe is pretty simple: "We don't recruit ex-pros and college guys. Everyone should be given an opportunity to play,” said Ciambrone. "You don't have to be the biggest or the best. We will always provide a league for you to play in and help set you up with a tournament team to guarantee that you have the opportunity of playing in your own age division.”
"We have long-standing team members like Ron Lovell, Randy Aosecki, Herb McKee and Duke Cullman who have been with us forever and just play for the love of the game,” Ciambrone said. "That's why we're all out there. We don't reload every year to make a title run. We recruit good guys who fit in and share our team vision.”
"In 2000 we just decided to bring down a bunch of guys who hadn't played in a while and have some fun. Heck, one player was out at one of the hot spots and was so out of shape that he broke his knee break dancing!”
Ciambrone lives in Mission Viejo, California – an hour south of L.A. and just more than an hour north of San Diego. His players typically come from Dennis Swartout's 35+ So Cal MSBL. Playing in that league can be trying for a 55 year old, but Ciambrone has a short pep talk rehearsed for all of those World Series recruits that are a little longer in the tooth.
"Slow down and play to your age bracket,” he tells them. "Don't rush. A 55 year old runner isn't as fast as one that's 35. Give up less than four runs and score seven. Play defense and be sure to have fun,” said Ciambrone.
"New guys are always welcomed in as part of our team. If they are more individual oriented than team oriented they quietly won't be asked back,” he added.
Good times and good memories in the Arizona sun are the primary objectives for the Fire, but don't be fooled – they don't mind the rings either. The team's good chemistry helped it conquer the 48 Wood Bat American division in 2005 when it was still the Yankees. Playing as the Fire since 2008, the team won the 50 Wood Bat Central in 2009, and the 50 Wood American in 2010.
"We won our first title as the Yankees in 2005, while purposely competing in the American or National divisions. We wanted to play the best competition we possibly could so it took us a while for the first ring,” said Ciambrone. "As we got older and up in age brackets we did a lot of re-designing of the team, so we went into the central division in 2009 just to see what we had in that 50-and-over age bracket and promptly won the whole thing. We got booted up to the American division in 2010 and won it, too,” Ciambrone said.
Last year, however, was a reality check for the Fire. "We only had about 14 guys and played over our head all week and snuck into the playoffs on Friday. We were pooped and out of pitchers and pretty easy pickin's on Friday morning.”
The Fire entered the Desert Classic in Palm Springs in January, and the Kickoff and Vegas Open in March and May respectively. It will enter a 50 and 55-and-over team in the World Series this fall. "Ron Lovell and I will each manage a team since both divisions play during the same week. It would be impossible to manage both teams and you can certainly forget about trying to play,” said Ciambrone. "Ron can handle the youngsters and I'll take the old guys. Here we are, starting over again and loving every minute!”