CEDAR RAPIDS — So why in the world would former major league stars travel to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, of all places, in late July to participate in a kids’ baseball camp and celebrity softball game?
Those former major league stars seemed to be rather offended by that question.
“It’s all about the next generation,” said Dmitri Young.
“We were those kids at one point in time,” said Bo Jackson. “Those of us who have been at the top, it’s our responsibility to give back. To put some sunshine in someone’s cloud. Why not give back?”
So they’re here, taking part in this inaugural event at Veterans Memorial Stadium that benefits the Perfect Game Cares Foundation, specifically its initiative to reach children that live in “underserved areas of the country.”
The renowned baseball scouting service, created in Cedar Rapids by Jerry Ford, is conducting a free youth camp Saturday morning and a softball game at noon that will include former pro athletes like Jackson, MLB Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman, World Series hero Luis Gonzalez, longtime former reliever Tom Gordon, former NFL players like Tim Dwight and celebrities such as model Alanna Arrington.
Tickets to the softball game are $5 and $10 and available at the stadium or online. All proceeds go to Perfect Game Cares.
“The free clinic for area youths ... that’s probably the proudest thing for us this weekend,” Ford said. “Here is Cedar Rapids, Iowa. We have 522 kids signed up. I don’t know how the hell we’re going to pull it off, but we are going to try. Hopefully, we’ll create a memory of a lifetime for kids. And hopefully we’ll turn them all into baseball fans.”
The former players involved Saturday are fully on board.
“We’re lucky to be here,” Hoffman said. “We are going to do all we can to help this grow.”
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“We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t want to take part in something like this,” Gonzalez said.
Also part of the festivities is a celebrity silent auction on the stadium concourse that includes autographed memorabilia from most of the softball game participants, as well as Mike Trout, Chipper Jones, Pedro Martinez, Cal Ripken Jr. and Brett Favre, among many others.
Hoffman will be honored at Saturday night’s Cedar Rapids Kernels-Clinton game for being elected into the club’s hall of fame.
“Anytime you have the opportunity to impact a kid, it means everything,” said former major leaguer Junior Spivey.
Participating in the softball event are professional athletes Spivey, Jackson, Hoffman, Young, Gordon, Gonzalez, Dwight, Arrington, Brooks Kieshnick, John Cangelosi, Tom Gorzelanny, Allen Reisner, Greg Vaughn, Dedric Ward, Adrian Arrington, Ben Ford, Wes Obermueller, Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman, Bruce Kimm, Todd Coffey and comedian “Stuttering John” Melendez, among other locals. Former big league outfielder Andruw Jones was a late scratch from the event due to a family commitment.
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