Indianapolis Colts

Pacers squad finally beats Robert Mathis’ Colts team in 2018 Caroline Symmes Softball Challenge

Pacers, Caroline Symmes Celebrity Softball Challenge, Victory Field, Myles Turner, Robert Mathis

How long has it been since the Pacers’ group finally beat the Robert Mathis-led Colts team? I’ve covered all but two of the 10 games and I don’t remember them ever winning. Mathis’ team has been flat-out dominant.

Mathis’ team has been so successful that when he began co-hosting the event with a Pacer — first Roy Hibbert, then George Hill and Paul George — while a defensive end for the Colts, and now is entering his second season as a coach.

So it’s understandable when afterwards, Mathis wasn’t sure how to handle himself. He was even salty on Turner’s Instagram, writing “so y’all sneaking in softball practices now #iGotCaugjtSlippin but now that I got competition…. #WartimeDeclared but great show for great cause and thanks for taking the torch bro”

The Caroline Symmes Celebrity Softball Game has become a year-end celebration for the year in Indiana sports. The Pacers’ season recently ended and the Colts are in town for offseason training activities (OTAs) and are less than two months out from the start of training camp.

For the second straight year, the Pacers had a strong contingent of current and former players, led by Turner. There was Lance Stephenson, Trevor Booker, Alex Poythress, T.J. Leaf, Ike Anigbogu, Edmond Sumner, and Ben Moore — plus coaches Nate McMillan, Popeye Jones, and a half-dozen staffers.

Myles is training home in Bedford, Texas, but flew to Indy on Thursday just for this event. But he wasn’t the only one.

Get this: Trevor Booker, who signed with the Pacers in March for the final 17 regular-season games, flew in from Charlotte to play alongside his teammates. He’s not even under contract with the team come July 1, when he becomes a free agent. That was cool.

Before the game, Turner was confident in his team, which included eight of the 17 current Pacers. If a guy was in town, he was there playing for the gold team.

“We ain’t losing! We got a squad,” he said prior to the game, adding on Instagram that “The Dub is coming soon.”

Pacers, Caroline Symmes Celebrity Softball Challenge, Victory Field, Myles Turner, Robert Mathis

Turner gets the win over Robert Mathis’ Colts team.

Turner opened the game with an inside the park home run and later made several athletic catches in left field. Booker batted immediately after Turner and hit a triple in the first inning, and then another one during his second at-bat. His athleticism was obvious to the 8,000 or so fans who came to Victory Field, home of the Indianapolis Indians, on a beautiful summer night in Indy.

Turner, who has noticeably added muscle, embraced his role as co-host. He completed media interviews before the game, posed for pictures, and quietly worked his way down the third-base line signing autographs for those requesting it.

And for the Pacers’ sake, Turner didn’t pitch. That’s unusual because usually the two co-hosts pitch, like Mathis and Paul George did last year. It’s always dangerous, and Packers linebacker Clay Matthews took a ball to the head in a charity game just last week so it was best for Turner to avoid a similar situation. Instead, he had the affable Victoria Vivians, a rookie on the Indiana Fever, pitch.

Pacers fans won’t forget this game last year when PG-13 praised Kevin Pritchard for his vision before the draft and how he was striving to bring a title to Indianapolis. The next day, his agent informed Pritchard that his client didn’t plan to play for the team that drafted him beyond the 2017-18 so it may be wise to trade him. That was a “gut-punch” to the franchise, Pritchard said then.

Pritchard, by the way, was in the Pacers’ dugout for the first two innings, and he was joined by general manager Chad Buchanan. That’s not insignificant. Mostly, it’s another example of how unified the franchise continues to be…

Pacers, Caroline Symmes Celebrity Softball Challenge, Victory Field, Myles Turner, Robert Mathis

Group photo at the 2018 Caroline Symmes Celebrity Softball Challenge.

The highlight of the night easily was Lance Stephenson. Lance, dressed in fresh white Nike shoes and socks, white and black tights, and white Lacoste shorts, walked around with his usual swagger. And this time, the back of his jersey read “BORN READY” with the number one rather than his last name.

Pacers, Caroline Symmes Celebrity Softball Challenge, Victory Field, Lance Stephenson, Nate McMillan

Lance Stephenson has a conversation with his coach, Nate McMillan, in the dugout.

He, too, loves Indy and how this city has embraced him like no other. Even in the dugout, several members of his team were playfully referring to him as “Brooklyn” for his confidence and ability to entertain.

Like when he casually got Colts quarterback Phil Walker out by executing the hidden ball trick. With two outs, up 7-1 in the bottom of the fifth, Stephenson pointed to fans in the outfield lawn seats and then slyly walked his way towards second base, where Walker was leading off.

Boom. Got ’em.

And Stephenson celebrated by galloping his way towards the pitcher’s mound.

By the end of the game, it was Turner hoisting the trophy in the air as he now owns bragging rights in the city for a year before they do it all again next June all for a good cause, in memory of Caroline Symmes and benefiting the Indiana Children’s Wish Fund.

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