Photo Gallery (photos by Allen Sharpe)
Dawn Staley, INNERSOLE working hard this summer (story from earlier this week)
The inaugural INNERSOLE Celebrity Softball Game Fun-Raiser at Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field on Saturday, July 19 was scheduled to be a seven-inning contest.
One team was to be coached by South Carolina women’s basketball head coach and game organizer Dawn Staley, while the other was to be coached by South Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner.
All week there was friendly banter back and forth between Staley and Tanner on social media and even after seven innings there was still no resolution as Staley’s team was leading 11-5 at what should have been the end point of the game. The two teams kept playing though and Tanner’s squad came back and took a 13-12 victory before the game was halted for a fireworks show for those in attendance.
When asked after the game who the real winner was the duo jokingly had a difference of opinions, but both agreed on one key thing: “it was all about the kids” and they were the real winners in the end.
“The way the people of South Carolina have supported everything I’ve done from our women’s basketball program to now INNERSOLE it goes to show how caring they are about what we do,” Staley commented. “I think it was a tremendous turnout even with the threat of rain and we got and it in and people came out and supported it. I think overall it was tremendous event.”
The inaugural event featured a seven-inning softball game in a relaxed atmosphere between former Gamecock players, coaches, local officials, media personalities, current SEC coaches, current NFL players, former WNBA players and Olympians, which included Staley. Celebrities that participated included Alshon Jeffrey, Justice Cunningham, Cliff Matthews, Tanner, Nell Fortner, Sheriff Lott, George Rogers, Judi Gatson, Terri Williams Flournoy, Cynthia Cooper, Corey Miller, Forrest Alton, Michael Haley, Duane Parrish, Darian "Big Tigger" Morgan, Derek Phillips and Beverly Smith. Morgan was joined at the event by his girlfriend, Keisha Knight Pulliam.
The INNERSOLE Celebrity Softball Game Fun-Raiser was done in an effort to help raise $75,000, which INNERSOLE believes will give them the resources they need to have adequate funding to support their endeavors in the 2014-15 academic year.
According to Staley the money is to support the Educate My Sole challenge “that will be implemented in Burton-Pack Elementary School this upcoming year where we challenge all of the second grade, third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade classes to achieve in four areas, which is physical fitness, grades, behavior and attendance. So we've hit all the areas where if they achieve at a certain level they're going to be successful."
The head softball coach at South Carolina, Smith was more than willing to turn over the use of her facility for such a great event like the INNERSOLE Celebrity Softball Game Fun-Raiser.
"I think coach Staley and INNERSOLE have really made this a special event outside with the VIP tent - I just saw the Governor (Nikki Haley) under the tent - everybody is out there socializing (pre-event), it's really a festive atmosphere … I've enjoyed meeting the other celebrities and I think it's just bringing great awareness and hopefully some money to coach Staley's foundation. I think it's really important to support it.
"I think it's just indicative of here at South Carolina. We like to support each other. It's for a good cause and any time we can help each other out we like to do that. I'm happy to share the facility for this great cause,” Smith continued.
South Carolina head baseball coach Chad Holbrook reiterated Smith’s thoughts.
"It's awesome,” Holbrook remarked. “Obviously, this is a cause that means a bunch to her. One of the neat things about our athletic department is that we have a bunch of coaches that try to give back to the community. This is a cause that's near and dear to Dawn's heart so it's neat to see the community pitch in, the athletic department pitch in.
"For me one of the neat things is seeing coach Tanner in the dugout for the first time in a long time. That's pretty cool … we have a great, tightknit athletic department and obviously this is something that means something to coach Tanner and we're all excited about pitching in and helping coach Staley out in her cause,” Holbrook expounded.
Coming off a Pro Bowl season last year and just days away from returning to training camp with the Chicago Bears, Jeffery still put aside time to play in the INNERSOLE Celebrity Softball Game Fun-Raiser.
“I was coming back home and just wanted to support coach Staley and her staff and also have a good time playing softball,” Jeffery said. “Coach Staley’s just powerful throughout the whole state of South Carolina, not just only in Columbia. She’s a very special woman.”
Tanner felt so strongly about the INNERSOLE cause that he put off his vacation a couple days to attend the event.
"We were scheduled to leave town yesterday and when this came together, I said I just don't want to miss that,” Tanner articulated. “I want to be a part of the reason we're having this INNERSOLE Celebrity Softball Game. It's exciting and we're having a lot of fun with it and it is for a great cause."
Tanner had a great time before, during and after the first-ever INNERSOLE Celebrity Softball Game Fun-Raiser.
"I had a lot of fun this week (leading up to game),” Tanner relayed. “This is for a wonderful cause. A couple months back when coach Staley asked me if I would take part in the celebrity softball game, I was excited and she quickly told me that I'm not a celebrity and I would just be coaching. It put me in my place pretty quick. I had a chance to do the draft. I took the draft seriously and she took all the politicians in the city and all the people of influence, although I like my roster. We've had a lot of fun with this and we’re excited about the cause that we're playing for."
The great cause also as alluded to by Holbrook gave the two-time national championship-winning head coach the opportunity to be back in a place he has missed.
"I'll be honest with you, I love the job I have right now, but I miss at times being in the dugout,” Tanner mused. “I don't miss so much some of the things that go along with coaching, but I miss being in the dugout."
Chance to be back in the dugout during the event aside, Tanner is pleased with the overall growth and direction that INNERSOLE has taken on Staley’s watchful eyes.
"Anything that she (Staley) does takes on it's a wonderful impression,” Tanner elaborated. “She embraces this city, she embraces Gamecock Nation and people believe in her. If she endorses something there are people that are going to come behind. That just speaks volumes about who she is as a person and not just a basketball coach."