GRAND CHUTE, Wis.––The final score might have read 18-16 in favor of the defense on Sunday, although there were no losers in the annual Donald Driver Celebrity Softball Game at Time Warner Cable Field near Appleton.
The winners were numerous.
Perhaps best of all, a handsome sum of money was raised for the less fortunate at the charity outing courtesy of the Donald Driver Foundation.
According to the event’s namesake, the money goes toward subsidizing housing costs for those living in homeless shelters, college and computer scholarships for children coming from homeless shelters, and food donations for families with children on the federal government lunch program at schools in Green Bay and Milwaukee where Driver plays, in Mississippi where Driver grew up and in Houston where Driver lives.
“I’m trying to go way beyond what we’ve made the past couple of years,” said Driver before the game. “If we can make $200,000 to $275,000, it would be great… We already know that we probably raised more money than last year, because we already have way over capacity that we had in previous years.”
The other winners were those fans that attended the event, who got the opportunity to see their Super Bowl champion Packers during an offseason that has seen less access to the team than usual, thanks in part to the current NFL lockout.
With over 8,000 tickets sold to the event, it was the first sellout in the history of charity softball games at Time Warner Cable Field, home of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, the minor league affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers.
The large turnout is evidence that interest in the team is at a high coming off a landmark victory. While the organization has made their usual attempts to connect with the community through the Tailgate Tour, the lockout has put a damper on other events regularly scheduled in previous years.
The organization cancelled its Fan Fest event this past spring, charity basketball events held at local Wisconsin high schools didn’t take place either, and more recently, Organized Team Activity and minicamp practices normally open to the public have fallen victim to the NFL’s labor battle as well.
“This is why we do these types of events, so our fans can still get an opportunity to see us,” said Driver. “Even though it’s not on the football field, it’s still playing softball. They can see us run around and have a great time.”
And for the players themselves, it’s the first time many of them have gotten to see each other since the Super Bowl.
“It was great,” said kicker Mason Crosby. “It was great seeing all the guys again. It’s been a weird offseason, not being around everybody, so it was good getting back out here and just having fun with guys on the team.”
Tackle Bryan Bulaga was also a winner. He took the event’s home run derby title with six, defeating two-time defending champion, quarterback Matt Flynn.