[i]A memorial was held today for Firefighter Jim Power who collapsed and died last Friday after he collided with the catcher. Firefighter Power was a firefighter with the City of Pinellas Park Fire Department. Units on duty in Pinellas County heard "Last Call" for Firefighter Power today at 12:15 as units from around the County paid tribute. God Bless his family and the members of his department as they all struggle to understand this tragic death.[i/]
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St. Petersburg Times--North Pinellas

Firefighter dies after ballgame
The 44-year-old Seminole High graduate collapsed after a collision with another player near home plate.

By MAUREEN BYRNE AHERN and ANNE LINDBERG
St. Petersburg Times
published July 2, 2003

Those who knew Jim Power say he passionately embraced all aspects of his life: being a father and husband, working as a fire inspector, playing softball and serving in the Naval Reserve.

"He truly was one of those individuals who gave 100 percent to whatever he did," said George Bessler, Seminole fire district chief.

During a game Friday, his 21st wedding anniversary, Mr. Power raced toward home plate. Witnesses say he collided with a player from the opposing team, knocking both men to the ground.

Mr. Power stood and asked the other player if he was all right. He then grabbed his chest and fell backward.

Mr. Power never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead at Sun Coast Hospital in Largo about an hour later. He was 44.

The Pinellas County Medical Examiner's Office said the cause of death is pending.

"It was so surreal," recalled Joyce Clay, the team's coach. "We just stood there thinking this can't be really happening."

Friday night was supposed to be like any other. With their two children watching, Jim and Rose Power would play a fun game of softball at Whitesell Field in Largo. The family and other teammates would gather at Beef O'Brady's on West Bay Drive after the game.

Mr. Power's team was winning 11-8. In the bottom of the fifth inning, he was on second base. On a base hit, he took off for home.

"He was just running so fast," said teammate Mike Shoemaker.

No one can figure out why Mr. Power didn't slow down. "I don't think he expected a play at the plate," Mrs. Clay said.

But the pitcher, who was much bigger than Mr. Power, who was about 5 feet 6, was there waiting for him. The impact knocked the ball loose, and both men fell. Witnesses say they both got up, but Mr. Power fell down again.

Shoemaker's wife, Laura, who is a nurse, rushed to the field. As she talked on a cell phone to paramedics, she and two teammates used CPR to try to revive Mr. Power.

Players from both teams gathered on the pitcher's mound. Some prayed in silence. Others prayed aloud together.

Most went to the hospital, waiting for a miracle. Rose Power, 42, who played on the same team as her husband, waited also with their two children: 13-year-old Kevin and 6-year-old Morgan.

"God needed somebody up there, and I guess he chose Jim," Mrs. Power said Tuesday from the Largo home that her husband built for them.

Jim and Rose Power both were born and raised in Largo. They met as teenagers and started dating in high school. He was a senior at Seminole High School; she was a junior.

They married in 1982, when Mr. Power returned home after three years in the Navy. He continued to serve as a reservist for the next 24 years.

Mr. Power was scheduled to ship out to Kuwait this month, said Mrs. Power, adding that she was worried about his assignment in the Middle East.

The stint would mean time off from his job as an inspector for Pinellas Park Fire Department, where he worked the past year. His career in fire service started at Seminole Fire Rescue, where he worked for 19 years.

"This is a big loss for the service," said Seminole fire Chief Dan Graves. "Even though Jimmy had left and gone to Pinellas Park, he was still part of our family."

Pinellas Park firefighter Nick Reale had known Mr. Power for 20 years, since they went through the fire academy together. Reale was only 17 at the time, the youngest in the class, and Power, a few years older, used to watch out for him.

The two became fast friends.

"When people die and they have funerals, it seems everybody that dies was a great person, a great guy, but this guy really was," Reale said. "He always had a grin. He was one of the good guys."

Reale added: "The guy was all about all the right things. I'm sure (his death) makes sense in some sort of cosmic way; that this is all part of the plan; that it all comes together, but it's not right."

Mr. Power's smile also had its impact on Pinellas Park fire Chief Ken Cramer, who said he watched its effect on children. Kids loved him, Cramer said, and Mr. Power always had the time to sit down with children to comfort them and make them feel good about themselves.

Taylor Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. A wake will be held today from 6 to 8 p.m. at Pinellas Park City Auditorium at 7690 59th St. N. The funeral will be at 10 a.m. Thursday at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 8001 46th St. N.