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First Responders Cup

Girls Fastpitch Softball

How We Came About?

On September 11th, 2002, the inaugural First Responders Cup Tournament was held to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice, and to celebrate the heroism of the Arlington Fire and Police who were the first at the Pentagon. All net proceeds raised from the tournament are donated to Pentagon Disaster Relief charities. Each year on the weekend around the anniversary of September 11th, the First Responders Cup Tournament Committee, an IRS designated Disaster Assistance Organization, hosts a Girls Fast Pitch Tournament bringing together the very best teams from those area directly affected by the attacks of September 11th. The purpose of this web site is to communicate information related this tournament. The winning teams from each age division have their team names inscribed on the First Responders Cup, which is then return for display in Fire Station 5, home of the first team of responders to answer the call that day. Arlington County proudly honors the response of their First Responders each September 11th with the playing of this tournament. As the Fire Chief Edward Plaugher said at the inaugural tournament, "What better way to 'celebrate' the response of our First Responders then through a tournament of the very best girls fastpitch teams from those areas directly affected by the events of September 11th."

What Are The Operational Procedures and Policies

The First Responders Cup Tournament is governed by the First Responders Cup Tournament Committee. The Committee adheres and abides by set of Operational Procedures and Policies by which the Tournament is organized, planned and conducted. Contained in these Operational Procedures and Policies are a description of the governance structure and the principles by the Committee donates funds to First Responders Charities. We welcome volunteers to apply to be a member of the First Responders Cup Tournament Committee.

Who Runs the Tournament

The First Responders Tournament Committee is composed of a small group of volunteers who partner with the Arlington County Fire Department and Department of Parks Recreation and Cultural Resources to offer this tournament each year.

Executive Tournament Committee

Tournament Co-Director-- Greg Hudson

Tournament Co-Director -- Rich Roberts

Tournament Co-Director -- Jack Belcher

Tax Information

The First Responders Cup Tournament is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a non-profit charitable organization. It was formed in the summer of 2002 to raise funds for those affected by the events of September 11, 2001. It is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as an 501 (c) (3) charitable organization. On May 11, 2012, the IRS reviewed the organization's work and subsequently authorized its renewal as a charitable organization. Id number: 05-0528494.

The First Responders Cup Tournament is recognized by the Virginia State Corporation Commission as an exempt non-stock corporation effective April 20, 2012.

How Do You Distribute the Funds Raised?

To date we have been fortunate to raise over $45,000. As a result of the 2010 Tournament we were able to make donations of five thousand dollars to the Arlington County Fire Department's Fraternal Association to create a 9/11 Memorial containing artifacts of the Pentagon and the World Trade Center and a contribution to a charity supporting the families of the Third Army's Old Guard. While we experienced our first cancellation in 2011, we still plan to donat as much money as we can this year. (All net proceeds after we pay for the balls, umpires, field crews, and signage is donated to Charitable First Responders Related organizations, in particular we have donated these funds to:

--Arlington Chapter of the American Red Cross

--Arlington Corps of the Salvation Army

--The Firemen's Association

--The Navy Marine Corps Relief Fund

--The Old Guard Ladies Association

--The Arlington County 9/11 Memorial Fund

--The Visiting Nurses Association of Greater New Orleans

--The Women's Center

--The Fisher House

--The Old Guard Family Assistance Program

Why Is This So Special A Tournament

The Tournament begins each year with the assembly of teams at the break of dawn. At dawn, the Old Guard ( 3rd Army Colonials or as they are known Pershing's Finest in honor of World War General, John Pershing. The Old Guard staffs the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty five days a year regardless of weather. They are also the ceremonial guard for all burials at Arlington National Cemetery and all Presidential events. Most recently they have led the funeral processions for Presidents Reagan and Ford) strikes up their rendition of 'Yankee Doodle Dandy' and begins the parade of teams onto the field as pictured below. The teams immediately following the Old Guard, are the returning tournament champions from the past year's tournament. Followed in alphabetical order by age group are all participants. Once assembled around the infield, the Old Guard plays the National Anthem and Nationally renowned individuals will briefly speak to the significance of the day. Upon conclusion of the ceremonies, the Old Guard will lead the teams off the field to begin their days of competition.

Where Do You Play the Games?

Tournament play is at Barcroft Sports Complex (4100 South Four Mile Run) and the Jennie Dean Field Complex at 2800 South Four Mile Road in Arlington, Virginia. The Barcroft Complex has (4) four softball fields, indoor rest rooms, a concession stand, and ample free parking. The Jennie Dean fields consist of two excellent tournament quality fields with similar rest room facilities and other amenities. View a Graphic of the CUP Tournament Play Locations.

What is the fee to Play ?

The Fee last year was $475 per team. While we have not finalized the fees for this year as yet we hope to keep the fee the same. 

When Can I Register My Team to Play?

We will have a formal registration announcement out shortly, but for now we encourage all interested teams to indicate their interest in playing as soon as possible through an email to [email protected] or better yet just register on-line and hold a spot for next year's tournament.

Tournament Testimonials

 A letter from 2010Tournament Participant

I want to take a moment before we all get back to our hectic work weeks to thank you and your organization for a great weekend. Our players and parents were impressed with the tournament and had a great time. Even though the weather did not cooperate, we enjoyed ourselves so much!

 Of course, we were deeply honored to have our team win the Frank Bradley Sportsmanship Award. That meant so much to the girls and to us. We were also deeply honored and moved by the opening ceremonies on Saturday. Honored that we could participate; moved as we remembered and paid tribute to the men and women who sacrifice for us with their time and, sometimes, their lives. And, of course, many of us relived those horrific moments 9 years ago and felt the same emotions we did then.

We hope you will allow us to return next year! Again, thanks to you and all of your staff who did such a fabulous job. You are a classy group!

 Jan and Jim Greenhawk


Maryland Magic 12 U

 Newspaper Notes from the previous tournaments.

There is a wonderful article about the passion that has been shown by the teams in the tournament, we invite you to you review this newspaper article from the Woodstock News on September 20, 2006 on why this tournament means so much to one team, Hudson Valley Express, from the State of New York.

by Janie Rosman

Every year on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, a local girls fast-pitch softball team travels to Arlington County, Va., for an emotional tribute.

Arlington Fire Station 5 and Arlington police were first to arrive when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. The First Responders Cup Tournament ( was founded to honor those who lost their lives and to celebrate the first responders - fire, police, and military - who continue their brave work. It was the brainchild of Jack Belcher, chief information officer for Arlington County.

"The tournament brings together the finest girls fast-pitch teams from Arlington, Va., New York City, N.Y., and Somerset County, Pa., all of which were directly affected by the events of Sept. 11," said George Barusso, administrative officer for Arlington County's Department of Technology Services and program director for the First Responders Cup.

The Hudson Valley Express fast-pitch softball team ( was invited to that first tournament in September 2002 and has been participating ever since.

"Express stands alone in its efforts to focus on the three C's - competitiveness, commitment, and consistency," DeMaio said. "They are a dedicated group of girls who will travel up to two or three hours to attend practice sessions."

Neil DeMaio of Highland, head coach of the 14U (age 14 and up) team, believes the organization's reputation prompted the First Responders' invitation to the initial fundraiser. Team members live in Ulster, Dutchess, Putnam and Westchester counties, and many were personally touched by the tragedies.

"Express stands alone in its efforts to focus on the three C's - competitiveness, commitment, and consistency," DeMaio said. "They are a dedicated group of girls who will travel up to two or three hours to attend practice sessions."

"The organization was formed in 1991 to give girls who display ability a chance to play a higher level of competitive softball than would be available to them locally," he added. The divisions are grouped according to ages - 12U, 14U, 16U and 18U. Winning teams from the 14U and 16U divisions have their team names inscribed on the First Responders Cup, which is displayed in Arlington Fire Station 5.

Edward Plaugher, former Arlington County fire chief, said at the inaugural 2002 tournament, "What better way to celebrate the heroic actions of September 11 than to have a competitive softball tournament among the young who have to bear the memory."

Added Barusso, "We wanted to make sure we had the right touches for this important 9/11 ceremony."

Speakers during the tournament's opening ceremonies in past years included the late Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Michael Mason, former deputy director of the FBI's local field office, and Sherri Burlingame, wife of the late Charles Burlingame, pilot of American Airlines flight 77.

Last year's ceremonial procession was led by the Third Army's Old Guard, which serves Arlington Cemetery and all presidential functions. Participating teams are asked to bring banners and flags to carry during the opening parade.

"My experience at the tournament was an emotional one since my father, James, is fireman at FDNY Ladder 54, and we lost a dear cousin, Daniel Harlin of Ladder 2, on September 11," said Rebecca Roell of Carmel, a member of the Express 14U team. "There's a parade before the games start called the Parade of Athletes. I was able to honor Danny that day, carrying his picture with me."

"The competition was great," Roell added. "We didn't win this year but we will win next year! Express...You know!"


After 9/11 the DeMaios - Neil and his wife Roberta, treasurer/business manager for Express - bought two flags. One had the names of the firefighters, police, Pentagon officials, office workers and service people who died, the other was a flag of honor that bore the names of everyone else who died that day.

Each year the flags are brought to the tournament and team members carry them into the park during the opening ceremony. Said Roberta DeMaio, "As we were leaving we spoke with the director. He knows how passionate we are about this and asked if we could take one banner to the firehouse of Ed Gruetzner, a friend of ours from Thornwood."

Gruetzner is a retired fireman from Firehouse 75 Engine, 33 Truck in the Bronx and lost many friends that day.

Barusso says he and Belcher have long been involved with the girls' fast-pitch softball league. He also noted how the girls, all between the ages of 12 and 16, discussed 9/11 and what it meant to them and their communities throughout the tournament instead of talking about the things teenage girls might ordinarily discuss.

Barusso said that in fast-pitch softball the ball is thrown underhand, with the batter 43 feet from the pitcher. The ball can travel at a speed of 65 mph. Major league players stand 60 feet (and six inches) from the pitcher, thus the speed is relatively the same.

Gruetzner's daughter, Amanda, participated in the first Express team that traveled to Arlington in 2002. Although she no longer plays, Gruetzner stayed on as hitting coach. "This is a wonderful way to remember," she said. "It's not about who wins who loses, it's more about remembering."

Added Roberta DeMaio, "When they heard one team member's dad, Nick Ciuffi, was a homicide detective in the New York City police department, they gave us a second banner for him (Ciuffi) to hang in his precinct."

The team members and coaches signed both banners to show their appreciation for the FDNY and NYPD, and Ciuffi was moved to tears.

The tournament committee is an IRS-designated disaster assistance and independent non-profit 509(a) (1) organization. All net proceeds raised from the tournament are donated to Pentagon disaster relief charities, however last year proceeds were donated to victims of Hurricane Katrina.