It was both an exciting and emotional evening at Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis Thursday night as some of our city’s biggest stars took part in the Second Annual Caroline Symmes Memorial Celebrity Softball Challenge. The event was sponsored by The Tony Stewart Foundation and benefited the Indiana Children’s Wish Fund, which is an organization that helps bring to life the biggest dreams of young Hoosier children between the ages of 3-18 suffering from life-threatening illnesses.
The two teams battling for on-the-field supremacy were lead by the game’s hosts, Indianapolis Colts defensive-end Robert Mathis and the 7-foot-2 center on the Indiana Pacers, Roy Hibbert. Although the two were pitted against one another during the game, both realized that they, and their teams, were not the main reason so many Circle City residents made it out to the ball park on a muggy June night.
Deflecting questions about his ongoing contract dispute with the Colts, Mathis said point blank to all Indianapolis media in attendance that “tonight is all about the kids.” Stealing a page from Mathis’ playbook, Hibbert added that, “I was asked to be a part of the event and I jumped at the idea…I want to give back to the Indianapolis community and this is a good venue to do so.”
One of the driving forces for making last night’s charity softball game possible was the Indiana Children’s Wish Fund Executive Director Terry Ceaser-Hudson. Hudson, a 24-year veteran of the Wish Fund, said, ” This is something that I have dreamt of for many years, it was just time to move and see what we could pull off.”
While only in its second year, the celebrity softball game is already one of the biggest fund-raisers for the Wish Fund. However, Hudson was quick to add, “This has the potential of becoming the largest, we wanted to make this a community event and we wanted to make it something that families can do together yet affordable at the same time help us raise money for our Wish children. And bringing in the celebrities from the Colts and Pacers has made it a very nice family friendly event.”
The event was renamed this year for one of the Indiana Children’s Wish Fund to commemorate Caroline Symmes who was a young girl in the Wish Fund’s program before passing away this past year. Even though Caroline was present in spirit only last night, her impact will always be felt during this Indianapolis event due to the bond she formed with player-host Mathis last year when the two met while filming a commercial for the Wish Fund. It was this meeting that prompted the Indianapolis Colt to get involved as well as calling on his football friends to give their support.
While the crowd may he bought their tickets in the hopes of getting up close and personal with some of their favorite Indianapolis sports personality, the Indiana Children’s Wish Fund did a fantastic job throughout the evening to remind those in attendance as to why they were really there with a special video presentation and a crowd singalong to Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline in honor of the game’s namesake.
It was a joy to see the players and celebrities crowding the sides of Victory Field signing posters and posing for pictures every moment they didn’t have a bat or glove in hand. It was also a much safer location for most since their batting and fielding skills left something to be desired. Before the game, both Hibbert and Mathis mentioned that neither had played much baseball growing up. One more thing the two team captains could agree on was that the basketball players were at a distinct disadvantage due to their superior height giving the opposing pitchers an enormous strike zones. In the end, Robert Mathis and friends were victorious 4-2 in the five inning affair.
The two Indianapolis sports icons brought plenty of help with them to The Vic last night as teammates from both squads came out to do their part for Indiana children. Colts stars like Mathis’ qaurterback sackmate Dwight Freeney, Gary Bracket, Jerraud Powers, Joseph Addai, Pirere Garçon, Pat McAffe, Jeff Saturday and the man who everyone was hoping to see, Peyton Manning. On the basketball side of the celebrity, such Pacers as Danny Granger, Josh McRoberts, former Pacer Fred Jones and there was even an appearance from Butler University Men’s Basketball player Matt Howard.
For more information on the Indiana Children’s Wish Fund visit their Web site here.
A monstrous rain storm soaked Victory Field and downtown Indianapolis just an hour before the festivities started. It was not a far commute for the Indianapolis Colts players to make from their normal stomping grounds at Lucas Oil Stadium in the background.
The Indianapolis Colts brought out the heavy artillery and offered the crowd in attendance a unique photo opportunity with the 2006 Lombardi Trophy. Too bad they didn’t have a matching 2010 trophy as well.
Indianapolis Pacers superstar Danny Granger signing autographs for all of the Indy sports fans in attendance.
One of the hosts for the Caroline Symmes Memorial Celebrity Softball Game was Indianapolis Colts defensive-end Robert Mathis. Mathis got to know young Caroline last year when the two shot a commercial together for the Indiana Children’s Wish Fund.
The other host for the Caroline Symmes Memorial Celebrity Softball Game was Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert…all 7-foot-2 of him.
A plane could have landed on the field and no one would have noticed as soon as Peyton Manning made his way towards the fans in the stands to sign autographs.
Just to prove that a softball game was actually played, here is a picture of Indianapolis Colts defensive-end Dwight Freeney pitching to his Colts teammate Gary Brackett.