The country stars reunited for a fun day at the baseball stadium to raise money for City of Hope

By Nancy Kruh
Updated June 08, 2016 08:00 PM
Credit: Nancy Kruh

This is softball, country-music style: Cassadee Pope swinging at six pitches before hitting a foul ball and running safely to first base. Her teammate, Nashville‘s Charles Esten, emerging from the dugout to throw, not balls, but free T-shirts to fans in the stands. Mickey Guyton rounding the bases while clutching her little so-ugly-he s-cute mutt, Charlie. And – oh yes – the game lasted four innings and the final score was a tie, 18-18.

The only casualty – besides every sports rulebook in the world – was A Thousand Horses guitarist Zach Brown, who left in crutches after twisting an ankle running to second base. “I didn t warm up and I didn t wear cleats,” he said sheepishly, not too worse for wear.

Of course it was all in good fun – and for a good cause. The country celebrity softball game, held every year during CMA Festival Week in Nashville, brings together two full rosters of artists and other notables who square off before thousands of fans at the city s minor league stadium. The beneficiary is California-based City of Hope, the nationally renowned cancer treatment and research center.

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Before the game, the players chatted with reporters about this break from the norm, as well as what s going on in their lives.

Nashville cast members Esten and Jonathan Jackson, of course, had the prospects for a fifth season of their show on their minds. ABC recently canceled the country-themed drama, but reports have been swirling this week that CMT will be reviving it.

Both actors said they were feeling hopeful, but even more, Esten, who plays Deacon Claybourne, said he was “grateful.”

“This is my first show that I ve ever had more than two seasons on,” he said. “So I ve always done everything that I can in this town and on this show – trying to get the most out of it and bringing my very best to it.” A common sight around Nashville, Esten performed on the Grand Ole Opry for the 49th and 50th time this week.

Whether or not the show is renewed, Jackson, who plays Avery Barkley, said he has put down his stakes in the city. “It s become home,” he said. “We love it.” He plans to continue to pursue his music career in Nashville and also owns a restaurant in a nearby town.

Cassadee Pope was still celebrating the success of “Think of You,” her duet with Chris Young, that s her first chart-topper. The collaboration, Pope said, may not be a one-time thing. “Chris and I were talking about possibly doing an EP at some point where every song is a duet,” she said. “We love singing together, and we love working together, so it would just be a fun excuse to hang out.”

Scotty McCreery, a one-time high school baseball standout, showed up at the game with an almost-new glove – still grieving that his old one disappeared during the filming of a music video. Though dropped by his label earlier this year, McCreery offered assurances that he s on his way to find a new recording home. “A lot of the music is ready, the single is ready, so it s just a matter of when and where,” he said.

After the game, McCreery was among several of the players who lingered to sign autographs and take selfies with fans, and he parted with his game jersey at one youngster s request. McCreery admitted the game s tie didn t set well with his old competitive juices, “But hey,” he said, “today was not about the competition.”

Organizers reported an estimated $200,000 was raised at the event.