Stepping up to the plate against cancer

Tech played host to a number of celebrities this past Friday, as the Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research held its first annual Brian McCann Celebrity Softball Game at Russ Chandler Stadium.

The event’s host, Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann, teamed up with the Rally Foundation and teammate Chipper Jones to put on a softball game to raise awareness of and funds for childhood cancer research.

“When you meet some of these kids, it makes the decision to help them anyway you can an easy one to make,” said McCann when asked about the cause.

Also in attendance were a handful of other Braves players, US Senator Johnny Isakson, Tech head baseball coach Danny Hall and a number of other famous athletes, coaches, radio personalities and news anchors. The stars joined forces with the event’s sponsors and the “Rally Kids,” children who have battled or are currently battling cancer and broke into teams.

The two teams were captained by McCann and Jones and were coached by Leo Mazzone, a famed Braves pitching coach and Sam Wyche, a former NFL coach who once led the Cincinnati Bengals to the Super Bowl.

At the end of the night, McCann and Wyche led their team to an 11-7 victory over their opponents.

While the big draw of the game was the celebrities, the focus of the night was undeniably the Rally Kids themselves. Officially, the kids filled the positions of bat boys and girls to the players, but through a collection of spontaneous shenanigans and scripted between-inning events, they stole the show more than once during the night. Whether it was a traditional dizzy-bat race, running the bases in uniforms five sizes too large or chasing Chipper Jones around the infield with a Super Soaker, the kids often attracted more attention than the game itself.

When prompted about his involvement in the water gun incident, McCann admitted to offering the perpetrating Rally Kid $100 if he managed to soak Jones before the night was over.

Earlier in the evening, McCann taught Andrew Vassil, a 14-year-old Rally Kid, a valuable lesson: don’t make a bet with a professional baseball player you are not willing to keep. The night before the game, Vassil attended the Rally Foundation’s Benefit Bash and bet that if someone donated $10,000 to the Foundation, he would let McCann shave his head. A handful of sponsors put up the money and, true to his word, Vassil sat himself on a stool mid-field while McCann learned how to use a pair of electric shears.

A few innings later, a freshly-shorn Vassil stepped up to bat and drove a teammate in for a run and scored one himself before making his way back to the dugout.

As for the charity side of the event, when all was said and done, according to a press release, the Rally Foundation raised a grand total of $280,000. According to Tech officials involved with the event, over 1,500 fans were present to show their support for the cause.

As stated on the , the organization’s mission is to, “[raise] awareness and funds specifically for childhood cancer research to find better treatments and cures for childhood cancers.” Ninety-three percent of all funds raised by the Foundation go towards funding research grants, awards and fellowships in the area of childhood cancer research.

The Rally Foundation was started when Dean Crowe, its founder and CEO, visited a neighbor’s son in the hospital as his brain cancer lapsed into remission. After asking how she could help, Crowe learned that less research has been done into the area of childhood cancer than the adult varieties, meaning that there are often fewer options for available treatments.

Though the original patient has made an excellent recovery and is now completing his studies at Auburn University, the Rally Foundation still continues to raise money for the cause, largely through grassroots fundraising movements.

According to the Rally Foundation’s website, one in every 330 Americans will develop some form of cancer before the age of 21, and childhood cancers are responsible for more deaths for children under 20 than any other disease.