Corey Costelloe mug

Corey Costelloe

It didn’t take long for word to spread last week about a very serious medical emergency that occurred during the Tehachapi Valley Recreation & Park District men’s league championship softball game. I won’t go into details because I wasn’t there and eyewitness accounts tend to differ, but what was supposed to be a fun competitive evening turned into a battle for a man’s life.

By the next morning I learned that man was Tommy Gurley, known by many in this community for his time spent playing softball, coaching baseball and simply being a pleasure to be around. While our interaction almost solely came on the softball diamond as either teammates or opponents, most will agree there isn’t a better human being to play with or against than Tommy. His smile and his hustle always seem to stand out, his love for the game tough to match.

Tommy was eventually airlifted from Tehachapi to Bakersfield where his recovery efforts continue. The medical care now available locally no doubt contributed to the ability to get him stabilized and into an air ambulance for critical transport. Stories like that continue to pour out of our new hospital and they sure hit home when it is someone you know.

As is typical for Tehachapi, it didn’t take long for this community to spring into action to try to help their fellow citizen. Even moments after the incident, both teams knelt in prayer on the field as first responders did their job, the call to the heavens just as important as the call for help.

Now his friends and the TVRPD have organized a softball tournament to help the Gurley Family with expenses as the recovery process continues. The tournament will be coed and will be held this Saturday, Oct. 12 at West Park. The entry fee is $200 per team and it will be a double elimination format. If you have any questions, you can call (661) 238-5431.

Time is tight to sign up; they’re asking for registration by Wednesday, Oct. 9, so make a few phone calls and scratch together your coed squad and register at To Your Health, located at 785 Tucker Road Suite I. It’s in the Albertsons shopping center on the portion that faces south next to Postal ASAP.

If you can’t make it or haven’t played softball in a few years like yours truly and aren’t quite prepared to embarrass yourself, donations are being accepted as well. I’ll go that route and I’d like to ask for others who can’t play to do the same. We all know how bills pile up when these unforeseen incidents occur, but the demands of life do not slow down.

This is an opportunity to take a serious situation and use softball to help out in a time of need. It’s unfortunate not only that this occurred to someone many of us know, but that it occurred in a space reserved normally for the escape from real life.

It always amazed me how the baseball/softball diamond was the one place, even as an adult, that the rest of the world simply faded away and I was focused on one thing, my team and a game. It’s almost like a fortress loomed just beyond the boundaries of the playing surface and the rest of the world failed to exist during that sacred time.

We all know the world, however, doesn’t cease to exist, and sometimes we aren’t dealt the best hand, but I hope at least from the prayers of the community to the response for this tournament on Saturday, we can help the Gurley family as much as possible. Just as softball lifts the burden for those of us who love the game, we as a community can lift some of that burden for our neighbors, friends, teammates and competitors. Get well, Tommy.

Corey Costelloe has covered NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides in Tehachapi. He can be reached at The opinions expressed are his own.