PHOTOS: DeVonta Smith's celebrity softball game welcomes local NFL stars back to the Lehigh Valley
ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Fans swarmed Coca-Cola Park on Saturday to witness some of the best modern talent in football.
Even if those players were a bit out of their wheelhouse, as they hit the diamond to play some softball.
This year’s DeVonta Smith and Friends match pitted the Philadelphia Eagles’ wide receiver — along with plenty of his teammates — against the Washington Commanders’ wide receiver Jahan Dotson in an afternoon of softball to help support St. Luke’s and Iron Pigs charities.
- Coca-Cola Park hosted the second annual DeVonta Smith and Friends Celebrity Softball game on Saturday, benefitting several local charities
- Smith and his team of fellow Philadelphia Eagles squared off against a squad led by Jahan Dotson, which included some NFL players from the Lehigh Valley
- Team Smith dominated the game, finishing 14-5 after eight innings
Kurt Landes, president and manager of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, said he was thrilled to host a plethora of world-class athletes from across the country in Allentown, and all for a good cause.
“To be able to put that money, which will eventually go back into community through grants to local youth, educational recreational programs in the Lehigh Valley, yeah, it's great," Landes said.
"DeVonta Smith and his family put this together along with ClearVision. Good people, great time.”
Beyond the philanthropy, the event also served as a relaxed atmosphere for fans to meet their favorite players up close and personal during meet-and-greets and photo opportunities.
Just about every athlete was all smiles as they happily signed swag and posed for shots, and the younger fans certainly ate it up.
"My team brought it to my attention that we should do something like this. And you know, I was all for it. A lot of guys enjoy their time out here. They want to come out here and do something like this and have fun.”Philadelphia Eagle DeVonta Smith
“I’m excited to see all the players,” Jude Gillen, 11, of Springfield, Delaware County, said after he had the opportunity to meet and take a photo with Smith.
He said that when he tells his friends about his time at the game, “I think they’ll think it’s cool.”
Smith said the game was inspired by his fellow players, and a desire to help out the community, embrace the fans, and raise some funds for charity.
“My team brought it to my attention that we should do something like this. And you know, I was all for it,” Smith said.
"A lot of guys enjoy their time out here. They want to come out here and do something like this and have fun.”
DeVonta Smith brings Eagles energy to Coca-Cola Park
Fans might have been split on who to support.
While the event is Smith’s show, Dotson is a Nazareth Area High School alumnus with a few other Lehigh Valley athletes on his side.
Take a look at the rosters, and you might be torn between the two star-studded teams featuring some of the best players in the NFL.
In a ballpark flush with Eagles fanatics, one could only imagine the deafening cheers whenever Smith took to the plate. But he never let the roars faze him, maintaining a cool demeanor all the while showing the love for his fans.
“This is electric. You’ve got a bunch of current and former legends out here, all coming out here to compete for a good cause. It's fun to see all these faces, and obviously a whole lot of fans."Eagles placekicker Jake Elliot, playing for Team Smith
When asked if he felt confident in the coming game with a flock of Eagles on his side, Smith replied, “Oh, yeah, always, always. You know, the bond, the family, everybody, you know, on the same page.”
Eagles placekicker Jake Elliot, playing for Team Smith, said he was in awe of the event, even if he felt just a bit underprepared to face off against some of the most notable titans in football.
“This is electric," Elliot said. "You’ve got a bunch of current and former legends out here, all coming out here to compete for a good cause. It's fun to see all these faces, and obviously a whole lot of fans.
“I feel good. It's been awhile, and I'm going to have to knock some dust off. But, you know, it's going to be competitive when you get all these guys together.”
Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said he felt pretty good after a warmup and a few homeruns, especially after a rough few days because of poor air quality stemming from the Canadian wildfires.
“You know what, we’ve got clear air, and we can breathe out here," Graham said. "It was a little bad at one point, but I'm happy that everything is clear and a little more sunny.”
Graham said the energy at the park felt like opening day.
Lehigh Valley alums back to the area
Whenever one of the Lehigh Valley’s hometown heroes passed by fans, you could hear choruses of cheers and shouts of “I went to your school!” from enthusiastic kids and kids at heart, showing at least some of the attendees were excited to see local legends return to the park.
Dotson said he felt confident in advance of the game, and while he may not have played quite as well as expected, he said he was happy to visit home and see the community support that drives him.
“It's definitely pretty cool, you know, just to have everyone from the Lehigh Valley out here," Dotson said.
"I bleed 610 everywhere I go, from Penn State to Washington, you know, I take the 610 with me everywhere. So it's pretty cool to be back out here.”
"So I love seeing our local heroes back, but I love seeing all these people from around the Lehigh Valley coming to cheer on good time."Allentown Mayor Matt Tuerk
New York Jets tight end and Team Dotson coach Kenny Yeboah, who played for Parkland High School back in the day, said he was happy to be at the game with his local brethren and excited fans.
But the humor of being surrounded by rabid Eagles fans wasn’t lost on him.
“I'm from the Lehigh Valley, Jahan has his team, and Saquon also is here, so I just came out to interact with the fans and just show support,” Dotson said.
“It's hilarious because I feel like I'm at an Eagles game right now, and I went to Temple, so we played at the Linc, so it's like hilarious to see all these green jerseys and stuff. But you know, it's a good time. Everybody just came to have fun.”
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley, a Whitehall-Coplay High School grad who played football at Penn State University and was selected as a No. 2 draft pick, said he was pleased to be back in the area playing for Team Dotson.
“It feels good to be home and get the love and support from all the fans,” Barkley said. “I’m out here to support Team Jahan and DeVonta Smith and all the good that he's doing with this celebrity softball game, and just to have fun.”
While Allentown Mayor Matt Tuerk was elated to see so many people coming to his city to enjoy the game, he did admit to a bit of bias as an Eagles fan, though he still had love to share for those Lehigh Valley superstars.
"I love seeing this many people in Allentown," Tuerk said. "We've got some local stars, we’ve got Saquon Barkley back in town, Jahan Dotson back in town.
"So I love seeing our local heroes back, but I love seeing all these people from around the Lehigh Valley coming to cheer on a good time."
Among the celebrity athletes were retired NFL stars Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco and Brandon Marshall.
Homerun derby, huge Eagles victory
Before the players hit the field for the game, there was a home run derby in which they were able to show off their skills at the plate.
Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert cinched the three-round derby win with eight homers, including three in his last 15 seconds of the event.
“It's amazing man, you know, a lot of support. I feel they definitely do a great job at bringing friends along, and Smitty’s got a great thing going."Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Darius Slay
Team Smith dominated the game, picking up 12 runs in the first four innings alone, including a two-runner homer from Terrell Owens that brought his wide receiver home.
While Team Dotson managed to pick up four runs in the fifth inning, a pair of home runs by Eagles running back Kenneth Gainwell and Smith all but cemented the victory,
The game wrapped up 14 to 5, with Team Smith taking the W, though one could easily argue the real winners were the fans, who were overjoyed to experience a day at Coca-Cola Park with some of their all-time favorite players.
“It's amazing man, you know, a lot of support. I feel they definitely do a great job at bringing friends along, and Smitty’s got a great thing going,” Eagles cornerback Darius Slay said.