Osvaldo Alonso has never been shy about his affinity for baseball. Growing up in Cuba, if he didn’t have a soccer ball at his feet, he had a baseball bat in his hands. That prowess on the diamond showed on Saturday in the United Way All-Star Softball Classic at Safeco Field, where Alonso hit a towering home run to help his team to a 22-17 win over Lamar Neagle’s squad.
“Lamar owes me dinner,” Alonso laughed after the festive event to raise awareness and funds for homeless youth in King County. “It was great to show him that I can play baseball too.”
It was the second time playing in the event for Neagle, who had a single and a double in his two at bats in the six-inning charity game. However, he ended up on the losing side of the game for the second straight year.
Helping the community while taking part in an event that included a who’s who of Seattle sports counteracted any competitive feelings for Neagle, a Federal Way native.
“To see my name with other guys from the area is really cool. It’s awesome to get away from soccer for a little bit and do something great for the community,” said Neagle, who noted meeting former Mariner Alvin Davis and former Sonic Slick Watts. “It’s awesome to have that support and that connection now. It’s cool to still have those guys in the community.”
The event attracted a crowd exceeding 6,500 at Safeco Field and raised over 1 million dollars for the United Way of King County.
Legends from around the Seattle sports world took part, with Dan Wilson and Jay Buhner captaining the two teams. Also on hand were Sonics legends Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton and Slick Watts, Mariner great Edgar Martinez, and Seahawks Cliff Avril and Jermaine Kearse.
“The United Way of King County and the Mariners have such a great partnership and have over the years. To have that many folks here to watch the game is great,” said Wilson, who carries the flag for the Softball Classic as a spokesman for United Way. “I think what’s great about today is so many organizations and people come together. Seahawks, Sounders, Mariners, United Way and so many other groups that have helped out. I think that’s what it takes to solve a challenging problem in youth homelessness.”
The game was a back-and-forth affair that started with Buhner blasting a home run, only to see an early 3-0 lead negated by an eight-run inning for Wilson’s team.
Neagle hit a long single to the fence in center field in the second inning, scoring on a home run by 710 ESPN radio personality Bob Stelton and Buhner’s team narrowed that lead to 8-7.
In his first at bat, Alonso was selected to take a swing at a kickball and he came through with a double to left field. However, the baseball-loving Alonso also flashed some nifty glovework at shortstop, hoping to show more of his baseball skills.
“I came here to play baseball. Not soccer,” he smiled.
Trailing 15-9 in the third inning, Alonso hit a towering fly ball, but it was caught on the edge of the infield. Neagle doubled in the fourth inning, but wasn’t able to add to the lead. It cost them later that inning when Wilson’s team rallied in the bottom of the fourth to take the lead, reaching a climax when Alonso blasted a home run to give his team a 21-15 lead.
The game ended 22-17 and Wilson was quick to praise Alonso and the participation of the Sounders FC duo.
“He’s a very good athlete. Kicking a soccer ball isn’t all that guy can do,” said Wilson, who played catcher for the Mariners from 1994-2005. “What great guys and great ambassadors for the Sounders.”