On Sat., June 10, some top country stars made their hits on the diamond instead of the studio. They stepped up to the plate to help the fight against cancer as they took part in the 27th annual City of Hope Celebrity Softball Game at First Tennessee Park, home of the Triple-A Minor League club the Nashville Sounds. Proceeds from the game benefited City of Hope, which works to find new cures and therapies for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases.
Eager fans, a good number of them in Music City for CMA Music Festival, packed the stadium to watch their favorite country singers, reality TV stars and radio personalities take their swings for the cause. Players represented teams from iHeartRadio and the Grand Ole Opry/Sirius XM.
Prior to game time, Craig Morgan, pitcher for the Grand Ole Opry squad, commented that, “I lost my mother to cancer,” adding that it was important for stars to aid organizations like City of Hope. A perfect example of the City of Hope’s work was evidenced in a pre-game video, where young cancer survivor Nicole Schulz tearfully recalled the dedication of the staff in their efforts to find a bone marrow donor for her.
After the video aired on the giant, guitar-shaped scoreboard, Schulz was given the ultimate surprise: she got to meet her life-saving donor for the first time in an on-field ceremony. The two exchanged hugs and wiped away tears to a deserved standing ovation.
Reba McEntire officially kicked off the event with a stirring rendition of the national anthem. Sara Evans followed with “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” as note-perfect as that favorite has ever been delivered. Fans stood and cheered as Motley Crue lead singer Vince Neil took the field to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Opry mainstay Jeannie Seely and Lee Greenwood served as celebrity play-by-play announcers.
As for the action on the field, many of the celebrities displayed some impressive ball skills while others were obviously more at home on the performing stage. Here are a few highlights from the four-inning contest.
Craig Morgan proved that he could wield the bat as well as pitch as he connected for the first hit of the game off opposing hurler, iHeart personality Bobby Bones. Morgan showed his hustle as he stretched a single into a double, barely beating the throw to second base.
Lauren Alaina, riding the success of her recent smash “Road Less Traveled,” singled for the iHeart team’s first hit in the bottom of the opening inning. Alaina also played third base for her squad.
The athletic-looking Drew Scott, one-half of HGTV’s “Property Brothers,” drove in two runs for iHeartRadio in the first with a long triple to right field. NFL wide receiver Eric Decker belted a double in the same inning. The iHeart nine got off to a quick 4-0 lead after the first inning. Decker later homered in the third inning and was easily the hitting star of the game. Hardly surprising, since, after all, he is a professional athlete.
The popular Savannah Chrisley from USA Network’s “Chrisley Knows Best” series, helped the Opry team finally get on the scoreboard with a run-scoring single in the second. The Opry cut the lead to 4-3 with their second-inning rally. Baseball fan Maggie Rose, who shared before the game that “hot dogs and beer” were her ballpark food faves, also connected for a hit during the contest.
What’s a celebrity softball without a few on-field pranks? There were plenty to go around in the City of Hope contest, to the delight of the fans.
The Opry’s Aaron Watson decided to play Eric Decker’s sport and tackled Decker on second base after his double. Jackie Lee tried for an assist on the tackle to no avail.
Craig Morgan attempted the old “hidden ball” trick on Kellie Pickler after her swinging bunt single, trying to pick her off first base. But the wily Pickler didn’t fall for it and kept her base.
The team from iHeartRadio ended up with a 9-6 victory over their Opry rivals. But as everyone surely realizes, the true winner for the day was the City of Hope. And the stars who appeared could not have been happier to support such a worthy cause. “This is a combination of helping out and giving to the good and then playing sports and just having fun, it’s all in one, so it’s exciting,” says “The Voice” finalist Danielle Bradbery. “I love doing things like this.”
Jonathan and Drew Scott, a.k.a the “Property Brothers,” have been involved with cancer organizations since they were children, supporting the work of St. Jude by donating 100 percent of the proceeds from their parody of Flo Rida’s “My House” to the organization. “It’s very important for us, it’s affected us and friends that we have,” the brothers say.
“When we are given a chance to give back to the community, that’s what we do,” Lee Greenwood adds about the Nashville community. “Today’s City of Hope is a tribute to those people who have had cancer victims in their families and also to those who work so hard to cure the disease.”
According to event officials, this year’s game marked the highest attendance in history, helping raise a considerable amount for the City of Hope.