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Firefighters go to bat for dying colleague

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Firefighters go to bat for dying colleague

Franco Torrice of the Manteca Fire Department takes a cut at a pitch at the organization’s annual softball tournament Tuesday at Big League Dreams. Held in partnership with the Lathrop-Manteca Fire...

JASON CAMPBELL/The Bulletin


POSTED April 24, 2013 1:51 a.m.

Tuesday morning was not about softball.

Sure, there were beers being poured, pitches being tossed and grown men scampering around the bases. Muscling up to get the ball over the fence remained a universal sign of strength.

Bragging rights, said Manteca Fire Department tournament director Steve Borrows, were in full effect.

But on the back table near where the first base line started at Tiger Stadium, a handful of posted flyers were on display that put the event - and the manly, rugged nature that comes with a day of softball with your friends – into sharp focus.

One of their own was dying.

Tony Sowers – who has been with the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District since 2006 – was just recently granted hospice care after an advanced form of melanoma has continued to metastasize. His goal of leaving enough money for his daughter to have a college education started to fade as his cancer became more aggressive, and his prognosis bleak, he’ll likely never see it.

So his brothers are stepping up and heeding the call.

Tuesday’s tournament – a joint venture between the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District and the Manteca Fire Department – traditionally left the independent agencies with a balance to donate to a charity of their choosing.

By the time the pitches started flying Tuesday morning, both had announced they’d be giving their proceeds, as well as the money generated from the raffle, to the fund that will go his family.

“He’s (Sowers) been fighting this for about a year now but I guess in the last four weeks it has really taken a turn,” said Lathrop-Manteca Firefighter Engineer Shawn Wooten. “I think that this shows what we can do when we work together for something. It’s tragic that there’s a 36-year-old that won’t get to see his 5-year-old daughter grow up, but if this is what we can do to help, great –we’ll sign up and do it every time.”

Tuesday’s tournament brought 18 teams from throughout the Northern San Joaquin Valley and the Bay Area for the 7th annual event – which has grown every year since it was first started as a chance for local firefighters to play one another for a good cause.

Manteca’s squad periodically squares off with the “Silver Sluggers” during a double-header that also includes City of Manteca staffers on the docket.

Sometimes just getting away, Manteca firefighter Tom Solonzano said, is all that you need.

“It’s good for building camaraderie with the guys that you work with because we have such a serious, stressful job and this puts us together in an environment where that isn’t the case.” he said. “Plus, we all have friends on the other teams and it’s a chance to see and talk to them.

“And everything raised goes to a good cause. I think everybody realizes that this year.”

For additional information, or to make a donation, visit the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District’s union website at www.iafflocal4317.org.

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