STAR TURNOUT FOR THE KIDS

Elite slo-pitch player Neil Teague autographed a ball for Tiara Catherwood, 11, of Simcoe, after the celebrity game at the Playing for the Kids fundraiser on Friday night. The celebrity game is the latest addition to the event that features a home run contest, day-long tournament and social gathering. Proceeds benefit Camp Trillium. (Barbara Simpson - Times-Reformer)

Elite slo-pitch players picked up their bats to show their hearts this past weekend.

Some of the country's superstars of slo-pitch put the fun in fundraising at the second annual Playing for The Kids. The weekend event featured a home run contest, a tournament and, new this year, a celebrity game.

Slo-pitch stars teamed up with local notables to take on Labatt's Let's Be Somebody slo-pitch team of Kitchener-Waterloo at Wind-Del Park on Friday evening. Local children crowded the bleachers, awaiting a chance to receive an autographed baseball from their favourite slo-pitch superstars.

"We've been trying to get the community involved," said organizer Ric Ashley of the idea for a celebrity game this year.

All proceeds from the fundraiser went to Camp Trillium again this year. The camp for children battling cancer has become a personal cause for his Kitchener-Waterloo slo-pitch team, Ashley said.

"Everyone knows someone who has had cancer at some time," he added.

Jeff Gare, an elite slo-pitch player, took some time from his busy baseball schedule to attend Friday's festivities. Gare, of London, plays slo-pitch for the Seattle-based Northwest Combat through the United States Specialty Sports Association.

"It's tough to do them (events) in the summer time, but I try to do as many as possible," he said.

Juggling a full-time career, Gare dedicates 10 weekends out of the summer to playing for Combat.

"Every other weekend we're travelling to a different city in the U.S.," he explained, adding it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit these cities.

Gare also plays for the Canadian slo-pitch team. With all that playing time under his belt, there's little wonder why Gare easily won the home run contest on Friday evening.

"Got lucky," he joked. "The wind was blowing."

Elite players Neil Teague and Fredd Tonn were also on hand. Teague runs his own charity softball tournament to benefit McMaster Children's Hospital after his son Aidan's stay at the neo-natal intensive care unit.

"It's for the kids," Teague said. "Anything you can do to get off the couch."

Tonn, who played singleA with the Toronto Blue Jays, also agreed that participating in slo-pitch is a chance to remain physically and socially active.

"Getting out with friends, it's all kind of a bonus," he added.

In addition to slo-pitch action, the event featured local bands performing at a social event at the Vittoria Community Centre on Saturday. New Orleans Pizza also stepped up to the plate, donating half the proceeds from each pizza sold for two days last week.

Last year's inaugural tournament raised $2,000 for Camp Trillium.

Source: http://www.simcoereformer.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2676374