Firefighter Delivers The Heat

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In the the words of Steve Sundra, an ex-professional baseball player who pitched for the Yankees, success is all about the execution.

"To be great you have to have an unbelievable fastball and a breaking pitch," said Sundra.

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Steve Sundra remembers a time when attitudes toward professional sports were less complicated. "You played baseball because you loved the game," he says.

Sundra is now a volunteer emergency medical technician and captain of Station 53 of the Christopher-Kohl's Fire Department. His father died of cancer when he was 10.

"My father pitched for the World Champion 1938 and 1939 New York Yankees, and the 1944 pennant-winning St. Louis Browns. My father had the best won/loss percentage in 1939 in the American League.

"He was 11 and 1. He pitched on Lou Gehrig Day. He pitched against Joe DiMaggio when Joe was on his 56-game hitting streak and according to the voice of the Yankees, the Newark Star Ledger, DiMaggio was called safe when he should have been out during his third time at bat, otherwise the streak would have been broken with my father," said Sundra.

Sundra made his own way to the professional mound, perfecting his fastball in college.

Sundra began his college baseball career at Connie Mack Stadium in the late 1950s when he tried out for the University of Delaware baseball team. The Carpenter family, who at the time owned the Phillies, were instrumental in getting him into the university, which had an excellent baseball team and admitted only 400 out-of-state students.

While he served as pitcher, the university won the Middle Atlantic Conference and Sundra said, "I still hold the record for 39 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run and I have the third lowest ERA (earned run average) in the school's history."

In 1963 Sundra had a chance to sign as a pitcher with the New York Mets, the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.

"I signed for less money with the New York Yankees because my father pitched for the Yankees," he said.

Sundra played single through triple A for two years. "I had a fast ball and great control. I could put the ball where I wanted to. What I needed was a great breaking pitch and I never did develop that."

After two years he was offered more money, but decided to quit baseball when the Yankee organization was sold to CBS, Inc. and they fired their good pitching coaches.

"Being a starting pitcher there was really no opportunity to work on that unless you had some preseason instruction and there just wasn't any in the minor leagues at that time."

Affecting his decision too, was the need to go into the family business or lose it. Sundra opted for the family business, operating the Rugby Inn, a bar and restaurant, in New Jersey for 31 years.

Sundra first saw the Rim country when his family visited his mother's blood sister on the Navajo Indian reservation.

"The area, which is beautiful, absolutely beautiful; the animal life, the climate, I just love everything about it," he said.

Sundra thought to himself, "If I ever have an opportunity to get out of the business while I was still healthy enough to be able to enjoy the outdoors it would just be a blessing to come up here."

Nine years ago he was able to make the move with his wife Shelly and son Ryan. Sundra worked as a bartender for both the Creekside and Landmark restaurants.

When residents of the Ponderosa Springs subdivision were about to lose their fire insurance he and his wife helped establish a fire station. Also, because of his athletic career he has always been interested in how to doctor one's self, so he became an EMT. "When I moved out here I felt so blessed to have the opportunity to live in Ponderosa Springs, I wanted to give back to the community," said the man who wears his father's World Series ring on a daily basis.

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