It was America — and the city of Porterville — at its best on Friday night. And the community received one more chance to honor two of its bravest heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Kids in the community were able to take the field for the first time in nearly two years at the Burton Little League Complex as Porterville Little League held its opening day. Before the opening games were played on each field, Porterville Fire Department Captain Ramon “Ray” Figueroa's children, Ramon “Phoenix” Figueroa and Amelia Figueroa threw out the first pitch.
Phoenix threw out the first pitch with his grandfather, Ramon Figueroa, at her side on one field while on the other field, Amelia threw out the first pitch with Ramon's and Amelia's mother, Lucia Hernandez, at her side. Several Porterville Firefighters stood behind the mound on both fields as Amelia and Phoenix threw out the first pitch.
It was one more chance for a community organization — Porterville Little League — to honor the memory of Captain Figueroa and Firefighter Patrick Jones who died during the February 18, 2020 fire that destroyed the Porterville Public Library. You know this community is not going to let their memory fade away,” Ramon Figueroa said.
Jones' mother, Sandra Jones, also attended opening day as did numerous Porterville firefighters, who brought several fire vehicles that were displayed in the parking lot.
Figueroa also said it was noticed that Porterville Fire Station 71 located adjacent to where the library was doesn't have a flag pole. So he said the Figueroa and Jones families will get together to donate a flag pole for the station with the goal to have it placed by the second anniversary of the library fire, February 18, 2022. “It won't cost the city of Porterville a dime,” Figueroa said.
Figueroa said his family and the Jones family “have fallen in love with the citizens and the community of Porterville.”
He added when Porterville Little League asked him to attend opening day, “I said, 'I'll be there.'” And that will be his answer whenever anyone from Porterville asks him to attend their event.
“Anything that Porterville has that honors Patrick Jones and my son, I'll be there in a heartbeat,” Figueroa said. “Whatever I've got going I'll drop it and make a point to be there.”
PLL Information Officer Summer Cordova said the date of February 18, 2020 will be easy to remember. “We were holding the draft for last year when we learned the library was on fire,” she said.
She said when they heard the initial report a firefighter had died, “we stopped the draft.” Porterville Little League is honored to honor our fallen heroes,” Cordova said.
And because of the COVID-19 pandemic PLL wasn't able to have a season in 2020. On Friday, PLL players took the field for the first time since Porterville hosted all-star tournaments in July, 2019.
“We're giving the kids what they deserve,” Cordova said. “It makes me most happy and our hearts are full because we get to see something we haven't been able to see. An American sport. Kids on the baseball field.”
Before the Figueroa children threw out the first pitch, members of the Monache High Concert Choir sang the national anthem.