SARATOGA SPRINGS – Super Bowl champions and World Series victors, Triple Crown winners and local kids got together at Saratoga Casino Hotel on a sun-filled Saturday afternoon to play some ball and raise some money to help keep sick children together with their families and near the care and resources they need.
“Hey Ozzie. Move around a little bit out there,” first base coach Craig Nettles – a six-time Major League Baseball All-Star – advised Ozzie Smith, a 15-time All-Star himself. Smith’s knack for impressive defensive plays earned him the nickname “The Wizard” and a reputation as one of the best shortstops to ever play the game.
Following Nettles’ instruction, Smith and Mickey “Mick the Quick” Rivers stepped up their warm-up drills, which consisted of fielding practice grounders and subsequently launching them at first baseman Lawrence Taylor.
“I wouldn’t sit there if I were you,” Nettles compassionately warned journalists who had settled down into the shadow cast by the New York Football Giant legend known as “L.T.” Taylor’s method: waving his first-baseman’s mitt at the incoming missiles with his left hand while negotiating a stogie between his right hand and his mouth.
Sensing they’d perhaps taken his call to movement a bit too seriously, Nettles finally bellowed, “You guys are going to wear each other out.” Maybe he was right.
Wade Boggs led off the lineup for the “blue” team and promptly sent a spiraling home run over the fences. It didn’t end there.
A five-run “mercy rule” was instituted in the first inning. Another was instituted in inning two. The last anyone time anyone was keeping an accurate count in the brief softball game, the score was somewhere in the 10-3 neighborhood with the victor declared Team Otis – named after the game’s play-by-play announcer and two-time Giant’s Super Bowl champion Otis Anderson. But by that point, who was counting anyway? The day’s full slate of attendees – which also included ballplayers “Goose” Gossage and Dwight Gooden, horse racing world legends Angel Cordero, Ron Turcotte, and others – all had a good time.
The on-field event concluded with Major League slugger Jose Canseco participating in a home run derby, with every home run hit by Canseco earning a $100 donation by Saratoga Casino Hotel to The Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Capital Region.
Following the well-attended celebrity softball game, athletes met with fans for autographs and photo opportunities, and local bands The Refrigerators and Skeeter Creek performed on an outdoor stage.
Overall, more than $10,000 was raised during the day and the irony was not lost on Skip Carlson, vice president of external affairs at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Carlson’s time at the venue pre-dates the installation of Video Lottery Terminals and goes back to the days when it was known as the Saratoga Equine Sports Center.
“I’ve been here for 40 years and it’s funny to think that when we had a celebrity harness race here, maybe in 1980, George Steinbrenner had won that race. So today, with all those Yankees playing, it’s kind of come full circle,” Carlson said.
“The Ronald McDonald House is a home away from home for families who have kids in the hospital,” explained Jeffrey Yule, executive director for Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Capital Region. We take care of those families’ needs - their housing, their food, whatever they need, free of charge.” Yule said costs are about $80 per night night to put up one family and that there are 25 families staying at a time.
“McDonald’s is a good partner for us. They account for about 25 percent of our funds and the rest comes from the public. This is an incredible gift to be donated, this much money, and it’s through events like these that we’re able to keep our doors open and our hearts open for these families.”
Jose Canseco swinging for the fences -