Fun night at the Park for the 2015 Caroline Symmes Celebrity Softball Challenge

An estimated 9,000 fans hung out at Victory Field and took in the seventh annual Caroline Symmes Celebrity Softball Challenge. It was a perfect evening in downtown Indianapolis for the game, which for the first time was hosted by a trio of Indy professional athletes.

Robert Mathis has been with the event from the beginning — all seven years. With Roy Hibbert opting out after co-hosting it with his friend for the past five years, Colts tight end Dwayne Allen and Paul George of the Pacers gladly took his spot.

“The interaction, the kids — they have a great time,” Mathis, whose team beat George’s 11-9, said prior to the game. “That’s what it’s all about.”

George said he’s “great friends with Robert,” so when Hibbert decided to step away from the event, George quickly agreed to take his spot to ensure that the event would stay alive with the Colts and Pacers coming together to put it on. This game helped to connect the two franchises and now they feel a sense of fraternity as professional athletes in the Circle City.

“It’s the city of Indianapolis,” Allen said of the professional athletes in Indianapolis supporting one another. “They say Hoosier Hospitality is second only to southern hospitality and it just so happens I’m from the south. I love getting to know people, I love being involved in the city and going to the different sporting events is one way for me to do so.”

VIDEO: Robert Mathis, Dwayne Allen at Celebrity Softball Challenge

Following the Home Run Derby, team introductions were made just after 7:00 p.m. and then Pacers head coach Frank Vogel had the honor of throwing out the first pitch. He fired a strike right across the plate but Rowdie, the Indianapolis Indians’ mascot, dropped the ball … literally. As you can see in the video, Vogel threw it like a baseball, although about an hour earlier he thought an underhand throw would be appropriate because … well, it was a softball game.

George’s Sluggers team quickly fell behind to the Hitters — Mathis and Allen’s team — in the seven-inning game, and gave up seven runs in the first frame. A few innings into the contest, Pacers’ no-longer-a-rookie big man Shayne Whittington provided the boost the Sluggers needed by winning the in-game promotion.

The Pacers — past, present, forever — take a photo together after the game.

The Pacers — past, present, forever — take a photo together after the game.

Whittington ate more St. Elmo’s Shrimp Cocktail than the two other competitors. Somehow, game directors were talked into giving the team three points for the win. (I was standing next to associate head coach Nate McMillan at the time and he was pushing for three runs. I’ll give him all the credit.)

Each of the Pacers made notable plays, like Vogel’s double, PG’s RBI (along with pitching for his team), Whittington’s play at second base. C.J. Miles, Solomon Hill along with former Pacers Bob Netolicky, Quinn Buckner, Darnell Hillman, Rik Smits, Eddie Gill, Fred Jones, and Hall of Famer Mel Daniels were all on hand to support the event — by far the biggest numbers from the organization in the softball challenge’s seven years.

Seeing all of them hang out together was certainly one of the highlights of the evening from a Pacers perspective. And the alumni very much appreciate being included. The past and present of the Pacers franchised showed up to support this great event, which is presented by the Tony Stewart Foundation, and benefits the Indiana Children’s Wish Fund.

“It’s being able to visit with different kids who benefit from the organization,” Allen said of his favorite thing about the game. “To have the opportunity to give back and participate in this game was an honor.”

One of the single-coolest moments came halfway through the game when George connected with Henry Wooten, a six-year-old Wish kid wearing a purple shirt. George brought him into their dugout on the third-base line, introduced him to some of his teammates, posed for numerous pictures, and highlighted him on the video board during an interview. Indeed a very memorable moment.

The athletes were great all night, signing autographs and willingly join fans for pictures. George did an admirable job as host, constantly interacting with the Indianapolis community. If he ever had a spare moment, Young Trece was on either side of the dugout with a Sharpie in hand to make a kid’s night.

George has been back and forth between homes in California and Indiana. Over Memorial Day weekend, he came back to Indy to ride in the IPL 500 Festival Parade and then deliver the green flag via an IU Health helicopter prior to the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Hopefully this event is here for many decades. The athletes and celebrities that participate genuinely enjoy the night, which allows sports fans to have interactions with their favorite players, and all in support of a special organization.

Cali Summer For The Big Dawg

Hibbert has opted to spend much of his offseason to this point in Los Angeles, away from things in Indy and home in Washington D.C. Mathis, who is often courtside at Pacers game in Roy’s 55 jersey, said he spoke with Hibbert on Tuesday.

“He’s out in Cali just relaxing, clearing his heading and being Roy,” the Colts linebacker said. “… He’s the same old Roy. He’s still big, goofy Roy.”

Hibbert has a big decision to make by the end of the month. He has a player option, guaranteeing him over $15.5 million if he plays next season with the Pacers — or, he can become a free agent. (He’s unlikely to receive that kind of money elsewhere.)

When Mathis was asked if he thought Hibbert would remain a Pacer, he said “I hope so. We kind of don’t touch on that really just talk, man. Shoot the breeze and laugh…”

Like Hibbert, George has spent a lot of time in Hollywood two months into their offseason. The two are close and dominate the left corner of the locker room, with a spare locker in between theirs, of course.

“That’s my teammate,” George said of Roy. “I always keep in touch with him. Roy’s doing good. He’s working hard. He’s back in L.A. Everybody is trying to get better and he’s doing it the right way with great guys he’s working with.”

2 Responses to Fun night at the Park for the 2015 Caroline Symmes Celebrity Softball Challenge
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    November 6, 2015 | 11:36 am

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  2. nice
    January 15, 2016 | 8:06 am

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