Benefit game reunites WRALL stars

Bibb County Sheriff Jerry Modena threw out the first pitch. Macon City Council President Miriam Paris took the field, as did WMAZ news anchor Frank Malloy.

Then there were the celebrities. The world champion Warner Robins American Little League girls team made an appearance at Mercer University’s Sikes field Saturday night, as did the powerhouse WRALL boys team. The occasion — the Celebrity Grand Slam — was a bit of exhibition softball to benefit the Central Georgia Chapter of the American Red Cross.

The event was organized by the 2009 class of Leadership Macon, a community service program sponsored by the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce.

A few hundred people bought tickets at $5 a pop and turned out on a chilly night to get an up-close look at the young stars of the diamond who made such a splash last summer in international competition.

The original idea was to pit the youngsters against local celebrities, but a last-minute examination of Little League rules caused organizers to change the program so kids wouldn’t play against adults.

The night started with a home-run derby by the WRALL boys, who were seen on ESPN in August, when they made the U.S. semifinals in the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa.

Thirteen-year-old Conner Smith won the derby with seven homers.

“I was just barely swinging because it’s a short field,” Conner said of his performance. Then the boys and girls took the field together to play some softball, a sport in which the girls excel, to say the least. In August, they won the Little League World Series in Portland, Ore.

“We’ll be playing fast-pitch for the kids and mercifully for the adults we’ll be playing slow-pitch,” came the announcement over the public address system.

Emily Whaley, manager of the girls team, said it was the first time the team had been on a softball field together since they won it all in Oregon. “This is one of the things we wanted to do — community stuff,” Whaley said. “We were given a lot to go to Oregon, so we wanted to give back.”

Her team wore the same orange jerseys they wore in the World Series, although this time they wore them with long pants instead of shorts.

“Those uniforms cost us $2,200, so we need to get some mileage out of them,” she said.