Davis swings for cause

Ex-Terps tight end lends hand at Iverson's charity softball game

July 16, 2006|By DAVID SELIG | DAVID SELIG,SUN REPORTER

BOWIE -- Vernon Davis took a quick glance down at his replica Wade Boggs Boston Red Sox road jersey and smiled.

"I have to say, I never thought I'd be wearing this," said the former Maryland tight end and recent San Francisco 49ers' first-round pick.

Davis was one of several athletes and music artists who wore throwback jerseys last night and took the field at Prince George's Stadium for the annual Allen Iverson Celebrity Softball Game.

And like Davis, who said he hadn't played since seventh grade, many showed why they're famous for reasons other than baseball.

Playing against a team from Washington radio station WPGC, Iverson's Celebrity All-Stars got out to an early lead, as the Philadelphia 76ers star drove in the game's first run - in the form of his son, Deuce - with a groundout in the top of the first inning.

Rapper Nelly followed with a home run to right field, and Iverson's squad went on to win, 7-3.

"A.I.'s a good person," said Nelly, who played amateur baseball in St. Louis and got the loudest round of applause from the large crowd. "His heart is big and with the things he's been able to do, you're always going to support him."

This was the fourth consecutive year the game has been held here, but for the first time, the money raised will help support Iverson's new Student-Athlete Scholarship Program.

In a news conference Friday, Iverson presented a $50,000 check to Saint Augustine's College in Raleigh, N.C., to pay for two students' scholarships next year.

And while there was much talk this weekend about whether the seven-time NBA All-Star will be playing in a new city next fall, Iverson was pleased to keep his game in a venue located between Philadelphia and where Iverson grew up in Hampton, Va.

"I have a lot of love for the people here," said Iverson, who attended Georgetown. "They've always supported me. It's just been great here, and that's why we've done it again."

Indiana Pacers guard Stephen Jackson was the only other NBA player to join Iverson on the field, but several NFL stars such as Larry Johnson, LaMont Jordan, DeAngelo Hall and Nate Burleson participated.

Actor Alex Thomas, gospel singer Yolanda Adams and Q from the R&B group 112 represented the world of pop culture.

Even though LeBron James, Steve Francis, Gilbert Arenas and a number of other NBA players did not make their scheduled appearance, Iverson was confident the fans had plenty to cheer about.

"Every year different people show their love, and I think it's good for the fans who come every year because they get to see somebody new," Iverson said. "[The game's] for a great cause, and I think that's the main reason people come out."

And for a relatively new celebrity like Davis - who met Iverson at his NFL draft party this spring - the event was more about fun and charity than the product on the field.

"I'm here to support the kids," he said shortly before swinging wildly at two pitches out of the strike zone in his first at-bat. "I'm going to tell you the truth: I haven't played baseball for a long time. This is crazy ... but it's fun."

david.selig@baltsun.com

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