Despite Valley sizzle, softball players keep at their game

The Fresno BeeJune 30, 2013 

While many Valley residents stayed in their air-conditioned homes Sunday as temperatures soared to 109 degrees, some shrugged off the heat to play a game they love.

Nearly 900 players on 68 teams from across the state played a two-day softball tournament in Fresno's sweltering heat over the weekend to ready themselves for an upcoming state competition.

"If it isn't raining, you're playing," said Jason Romero, head coach for the California Stampede from Clovis. "It's Fresno — you can't complain about the weather."

But you can learn to live with it, players and parents said Sunday at the Fresno Regional Sports Complex.

Players and umpires were encouraged to drink lots of water, take longer breaks and cool themselves off with wet towels and ice wraps.

On Saturday, two players suffered heat-related injuries — one critically — and had to be taken to an area hospital for treatment, organizers said.

Sunday's high temperature of 109 was one degree higher than the day before. The National Weather Service is predicting even hotter weather this week: triple-digit temperatures as high as 112 degrees both today and Tuesday.

Despite four straight days of triple-digit daytime temperatures, Valley fire officials said they hadn't been called upon to help with unusual numbers of heat-related medical calls.

Still, the high temperatures did set the stage for at least one tragedy: a 6-year-old boy drowned in the San Joaquin River in northwest Fresno just before 6 p.m. Sunday.

Meanwhile, scattered power outages were reported Sunday in Fresno, Clovis and several other Valley communities, according to Pacific Gas & Electric Co.'s outage map. The largest appeared to be in Mendota, where 80 customers were without electricity.

The high temperatures prompted the people who run the state's power grid to ask Northern California residents to avoid using appliances or making heavy demands on the electric system today and Tuesday. The Flex Alert calls for voluntary cutbacks on energy use until after 6 p.m. to prevent reserves from falling to emergency levels and avoid the possibility of outages.

At the sports park, softball mom Mae Martinez, who brought her 2-week-old granddaughter to her daughter's game, said the heat was nothing compared to the tournament she attended in Las Vegas two weeks ago.

The Clovis Rockets played in 117-degree heat, Martinez said. Twelve umpires went down that day, one who was with the Clovis team, said Martinez, whose daughter, A.J., plays on the team.

"This is a breeze compared to Vegas," Martinez said. "Over there, we couldn't even breathe it was so hot."

The 11- and 12-year-old girls on the California Stampede team sat under pop-up canopies cooling themselves with handheld misting fans between games.

"We drink lots of water and spray each other," said Grace Cota, 12.

The players also freeze towels and use neck wraps that have special gel or beads that cool when frozen. How do they stay cool on the field?

"We fight for the shady dugout," said Allison Bean, 11. It feels a couple degrees lower in a shady dugout, so it's "all worth it."

When towels weren't enough, people headed to Java Joe, a food and drink truck, for blended iced mochas or fruit smoothies.

The truck went through 600 pounds of ice by 2 p.m. Sunday, said owner Joe Machado. That's almost twice as much as on a normal day, said Machado, who contracts with the city to sell food at the complex six days a week.

The triple-digit heat will continue through the rest of the week with a high of 111 degrees on Wednesday and a gradual cooldown for the weekend — to 101 on Saturday, said National Weather Service meteorologist Gary Sanger.

"The high pressure system will not go anywhere," Sanger said.

Bee staff writer Angel Moreno contributed to this report. The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6495, or @bonhialee on Twitter.

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