Cumpy’s T-Shirt Shop owner Andrew Romano was friends with Larry J. Leggio and John V. Mesh, the two Kansas City Fire Department veterans who died Monday battling a three-story blaze in the 2600 block of Independence Avenue.
Romano has done a lot of work for individual station houses through the years as a sports and apparel merchandiser in Pleasant Valley, because lots of his family and friends are firefighters.
Like so many others in Kansas City, Romano was rocked Monday by news that Leggio, 43, a 17-year department veteran, and Mesh, 39, a 13-year department veteran, died when the wall collapsed on them in the line of duty.
Two other firefighters also were injured in the blaze.
Romano’s connection with Kansas City’s latest fallen heroes made the specially designed “KCFD” Royals-inspired hats he crafted Tuesday — which the team will wear Wednesday during batting practice before Game 5 of the American League Division Series — a labor of love for Romano.
“The first one that I printed I was really hands-on to make sure it looks great,” said Romano, who already planned to reach out the Kansas City Fire Department when he received a preemptive call about making tribute hats. “It’s not only for the Royals, because I’m a huge Royals fan and I’ll be at the game, but I want it to look good for the firefighters and their families. I’ll probably tear up when I see the players wear them during batting practice.”
Major League Baseball has a strict uniform code, especially for the playoffs, so the players won’t be permitted to wear the tribute hats during the game, a Royals spokesman confirmed.
Still, the gesture of support is appreciated.
First baseman Eric Hosmer, whose father was a firefighter for 29 years with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, was among a half-dozen Royals to don fire department hats and T-shirts during Tuesday’s voluntary workout at Kauffman Stadium.
“It’s great what the Royals are doing, and I think they should do something,” said Romano, who planned to make 48 hats for the Royals players and coaching staff for delivery Wednesday morning. “You’re center stage, so it’s a good chance to show loyalty to the fire department with what happened. I think these guys deserve it, the two guys who lost their lives.”
Sports teams often have a special relationship with civil servants and the military. The Royals are no exception.
“This city’s a family and, as much as we back the team, they back the city,” Romano said. “Yesterday, for the city in general, was such a high and low. I know, for myself, I was jumping up and down in my shop listening and watching the game. Then, you come home and are just heartbroken about what happened to two guys I knew.”
The Royals rallied from the brink of elimination, down 6-2 in the eighth inning at Minute Maid Park in Houston, and forced Wednesday’s series-deciding finale.
Romano said he’s considering making additional hats to sell to the public, with the proceeds benefiting the families of the dead and injured firefighters, but those plans haven’t been finalized.
“I actually was thinking about doing something like that, but the biggest thing was when I’m going to have them,” Romano said. “I don’t know how quickly I can get that many printed. They needed 48 overnight for the Royals, so I was taking care of them first.”