On Saturday, June 7th, some of your favorite country stars, athletes, and personalities suited up and took the field to support City of Hope’s annual celebrity softball game. The two teams, Team iHeart and Team Opry, might have duked it out on the field, but united in their mission to swing their bats in a strike against cancer.
Team iHeart’s players included Florida Georgia Line, Sara Evans, Dustin Lynch, Danielle Bradbery, Lindsay Ell, Kree Harrison, Sarabeth, and Coach Bobby Bones, while Team Opry consisted of Scotty McCreery, Jana Kramer, Chase Rice, Lauren Alaina, Jamie Lynn Spears, Chuck Wicks, DeeJay Silver, Brothers Osborne, Sarah Darling, Jessie James Decker, Eric Decker, Two Story Road, Chip Esten, and Coach Pete Fisher. The game, which was one of the highlights of CMA Fest, also honored young cancer survivors who were placed on each team to play alongside some of their favorite stars. Gavin Wolfrank wore a Team iHeart jersey, while Kennedy Kraus was a member of Team Opry.
Rather than giving a conventional recap of the game (which Team Opry won 13-11), I thought it would be more interesting to share the best moments from the perspective of the #CMchat crew. Jessica Northey served as the City of Hope Ambassador at the game and the Country Cadre was on the green carpet, in the dugouts, and in the stands throughout the entire game, experiencing the event from the most unique of perspectives. How often do you get to hear about the smack talking stories from inside the dugout and on-field encounters?
In no particular order:
1. Bobby Bones strikes out … cancer and otherwise. At Bobby’s first at-bat, Team Opry Pitcher, Chase Rice, struck out the controversial on-air personality in one, two, three strikes. Bobby swung so emphatically that I am pretty sure he drilled himself a hole in the batter’s box.
2. After an embarrassing three pitch strikeout, Bobby Bones took the mound for Team iHeart and soon became the target of ridicule by certain Team Opry members. Jana Kramer and Lauren Alaina wasted no time hanging over the wall of the dugout to harass Bobby, shouting things such as “Bobby! You suck!” Sorry, Bobby, but I have to agree with my girls in this particular instance!
3. The Country Cadre “saved Brian Kelley’s (Florida Georgia Line) life” in the dugout after the game. As Brian was graciously signing autographs for fans, he lost his footing and almost tumbled off the platform he was standing on to reach the top of the dugout. Thanks to the Cadre, either Florida or Georgia (Jessica Northey is “on the line” about which one Brian is) went unharmed. You’re welcome, world. You’re welcome.
4. Jessica Northey was validated as a celebrity. As the Country Cadre was leaving the field, fans started yelling Jessica’s name. Amazed and confused, Jessica looked around, unclear as to why she was causing a tiny commotion. It turned out there were some really cool fans who wanted HER autograph! No big deal that our very own #CMchat creator was lending her John Hancock to the same poster as the celebrity softball players.
5. Chip Esten photo bombs Jen Swirsky’s butt picture in the Team Opry dugout. Jessica Northey realized that Jen was between TJ and John Osborne (Brothers Osborne). As she went to take a picture of the Osborne sandwich, Chip Esten (Deacon on Nashville) stopped to photo bomb the trio as they hung out in the dugout.
6. Gavin Wolfrank hits a homerun off Chase Rice. Danielle Bradbery brought her pint-sized Team iHeart teammate to bat against the Team Opry Pitcher, Chase Rice. When Danielle hit the ball on behalf of Gavin and the slow roller went back to Chase, he fielded it and threw it as far as he could into the Greer Stadium outfield. Little Gavin circled the bases as the crowd screamed for him and his teammates awaited him at home plate. If that isn’t a Hallmark moment, I don’t know what is.
While Team Opry might have been declared the winner of the game over Team iHeart, the bottom line is the true winner on this day was City of Hope. Raising over $200,000 for cancer research, the game was a resounding success. So, at the end of the day, the Country Cadre affectionately referred to all of the celebrity players as members of a unified team: Team iHOP.