Lamar Neagle didn’t get far into a recent e-mail from Sounders FC manager of business operations Taylor Graham. All he needed was the first line of the correspondence and Neagle was hooked.
“He asked me if I wanted to play in a softball game with Gary Payton,” Neagle smiled. “I pretty much stopped reading the e-mail right there.”
As a Seattle-area athlete growing up in the 1990s, Payton was one of the icons of the sports world. So when Neagle found out that he could play alongside Payton in the All-Star Softball Classic for Homeless Youth on Saturday at Safeco Field, he jumped at the opportunity.
Among the other athletes scheduled to appear on Saturday are Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate, Mariners legends Dan Wilson, Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez and Julio Cruz, Sonics greats Detlef Schrempf and Slick Watts and former UW and NFL kicker Chuck Nelson. They aren’t alone, though, as renowned author Sherman Alexie and Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament are also on the list.
In learning more about the event, Neagle found other attachments to the event beyond the celebrities he would be playing with. The event, which is presented by Microsoft, is benefitting the United Way’s programs for youth who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
“When I lived in downtown Seattle, I would drive by the Orion Center every day and see kids younger than me that were homeless,” Neagle said. “It’s something that I think needs to be addressed and I’m honored and privileged to be part of it.”
The event comes at a great time for Neagle, too.
After notching a goal and an assist against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday, he has jumped into the team lead in goals with four and assists with three. It’s his third go-round with the Sounders after a brief stint in 2009 and a breakout season in 2011. In between he played in the USL2 with the Charleston Battery where he earned league MVP honors and was the league’s top scorer in 2010. In 2012, he was traded to the Montreal Impact, but was reacquired by the Sounders before the 2013 season and has blossomed again while filling in at the forward spot.
“Just his running off the ball, his hold up play tonight I thought was pretty good—it was much, much better than it’s been. He’s connecting his passes as a result of that,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “He’s just done really, really well. You can’t ask a lot more of a forward than that.”
The recent jump in playing time has been a nice boost for Neagle and the Sounders, who go into the off weekend winners of five of their last six matches to jump into fourth in the Western Conference.
“It’s nice. Just to be out here and having fun is a big thing for me,” Neagle said. “I’m playing well. The weather’s nice in Seattle. Everything’s coming together.”
For more information on the All-Star Softball Classic, visit www.uwkc.org.