Charity softball game a huge success for McCoy
LANCASTER, Pa. -- After he rounded third base, a speeding DeSean Jackson slowed down, turned and glanced toward right field, saw that the ball still hadn’t been picked up, and did a cartwheel right there in the base path.
And then he did another. And then a third, this one bringing his right hand down directly onto home plate as the crowd roared.
Welcome to the inaugural LeSean McCoy Foundation Celebrity Softball Tournament, which raised more than $100,000 to battle Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), the disease that claimed his beloved grandmother Maryann Branch in 2010.
“It’s all about supporting a teammate and supporting a great cause,” Jackson said. “We’re all happy to come out here, have a great time and show support for our friend and teammate.”
The softball game and Home Run Derby provided several hours worth of laughs and thrills for the nearly 7,500 fans that filled Clipper Magazine Stadium Saturday night to watch McCoy, Jackson, Michael Vick, Brian Westbrook and several other Eagles, former Eagles, assorted NFL players and even a couple members of the Sixers play -- or in some cases try to play -- softball.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” Vick said as he coached first base while holding a softball bat. “LeSean really did a tremendous job putting together this event. It shows his true character.”
Vick paused to survey the packed stadium.
“Look at the turnout, it’s unbelievable,” he said. “I know how close this cause is to his heart because of his own loss. It just goes to show you how highly people think of LeSean that he could get so many teammates and guys from around the league to come out here to Lancaster. He’s a good guy, and he did a fantastic job. I’m extremely proud of him.”
The game itself pitted a team of Eagles players vs. Team NFL -- a hodge-podge team consisting of several players from around the league, Evan Turner and Xavier Silas of the 76ers and agent Drew Rosenhaus, who was lustily booed every time he came to the plate.
With cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie blasting three home runs -- including one mammoth shot that hit the scoreboard in right-center field, about 340 feet away -- and long snapper Jon Dorenbos slamming two homers, the Eagles won 18-14.
Jason Avant (single, double, triple) came a home run shy of hitting for the cycle, and Jackson had a couple hits and absolutely scorched the base paths scoring from first on Avant’s double in the first inning.
Chiefs wide receiver Steve Breaston, who had a 1,000-yard season for the Cards in 2008, slugged two long home runs for Team NFL.
“It’s an honor to come out here and be part of Shady’s big day,” Rodgers-Cromartie said. “I love doing stuff like this. It’s great for team camaraderie for everybody to come out here and spend the day together playing softball and having a great time for a great cause and supporting Shady.”
An official crowd of 7,427 began filing late Saturday afternoon into the beautiful new Clipper Magazine Stadium, home of the independent minor-league Lancaster Barnstormers, and the first event on the agenda was a home run contest between four guys from Team NFL and four Eagles. In the championship round, Giants tight end Ryan Purvis -- who played scholastic football a mile away at Lancaster Catholic -- topped Jamar Chaney, nine dingers to six.
That was a warmup for the main event, a thoroughly enjoyable and incredibly sloppy seven-inning softball game that featured 32 runs and probably just as many errors.
But nobody cared.
What really mattered was that a lot of money was raised for a great cause, and McCoy and friends put on a terrific show for the kids and families of the Lancaster area.
“I’ve been coming to charity events that our guys put on for 14 years, and I’ve never seen anything close to this,” said Eagles trainer Rick Burkholder, who now holds the distinction of being the only person in history to pinch-run for Michael Vick. “This turnout is just unbelievable.”
Fans, hundreds of them wearing No. 25 McCoy jerseys, filled virtually every seat in the stadium and jammed a sloping hill beyond center field.
Vick, McCoy and Jackson got the loudest cheers of the night, but Westbrook also received a huge ovation when he was introduced.
“I just wanted to come out and show my support for LeSean,” said Westbrook, who played with McCoy in 2009. “I know how much this means to him.”
McCoy, who also hosts several camps in and near his native Harrisburg, said he hopes to make the softball tournament an annual event. There’s even a chance next year’s game will be in Philly.
“Great to see so many people, such a great turnout,” McCoy said. “It means so much to me. I never dreamed we’d have a sell out.
“The support from the community, it’s been amazing. Unbelievable, really. And to see all my teammates here, taking time out of their busy schedule to be a part of this, that’s a great feeling. They know how important this is to me. It’s great to fight this fight together. That means so much to me.”E-mail Reuben Frank at email@example.com