Prior to the start of their game against the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday, the Colorado Rockies hosted a slew of local celebrities for the UCHealth Healthy Swings Home Run Derby to raise money for the National Stroke Association.
“We saw an opportunity with national stroke awareness month to really make a dent in educating people and the people of Denver and Colorado on to know and recognize the signs of stroke,” UCHealth Marketing and Partnerships director Bill Smith said.
“What we decided to do was to put together an event that would get a lot of attention with our partners from the Avs, the Broncos, the Rockies. They were all game to come out and hit some balls. The longer they hit these balls, the more money we raise for the Stroke Association.”
The event included appearances at the plate from former Rockies Dante Bichette, Vinny Castilla, Brad Hawpe, Cory Sullivan and Ryan Spilborghs; current and former Avalanche players in Francois Beauchemin, Pierre Turgeon and Ken Klee; former Bronco Mark Schlereth; current and former Nuggets Malik Beasley and Mark Randall; and current Mammoth John Grant Jr. Several members of the local media also stepped up to the batter’s box to do their part for the cause.
“I think it’s so great anytime you get a lot of people that really have a passion for these kinds of charities, and you have people that come together and have something fun,” 9News anchor Christine Noel said. “With the Rockies being here in Denver, I think it’s awesome that people come together. The more you have other athletes and local celebrities that get together and all for one cause, how can you not raise awareness? It’s a fun way to do it and I’m just really pleased to be a part of it.”
Depending on the varying degree of the placement of hits, the participants raised anywhere from $50 to $2,500 per hit. Sullivan and Beauchemin highlighted the lineup as each hit three or more home runs, some even into the second deck.
But this wasn’t Beauchemin’s first rodeo at Coors Field, because he stopped by with his whole team last year to take batting practice before a game one day, when he also hit a few home runs.
“These guys, I think most of them it was their first time hitting a baseball on the field, so maybe I had a little bit of an edge, but they did good. All the guys that were hitting balls, they got some solid contact and good hits,” Beauchemin said. “I’m not sure if I had three or four [home runs], but the one I hit off the second deck was pretty fun.”
Former Rockies legend Bichette hit a few hard balls after starting out with a couple bunts and some normal swings before transitioning into a one-handed batting stance.
“It was good for about 20 swings and then I was exhausted, absolutely exhausted,” Bichette said. “It feels great, especially when you do this for a good cause.”
Castilla stepped into a familiar role when he entered the batting net, but he said this time, it was a little more special.
“It’s a good cause,” Castilla said. “Everybody showed up and had a great time and enjoyed themselves. I enjoyed hitting a lot, so that was a great time for myself, but like I said, it’s a great cause for a lot of people.”
Turgeon said that his turn at the plate was a lot harder than he anticipated.
“It’s hard, pretty tough,” Turgeon said. “I knew it was going to be hard, but after many hits, you’re kind of feeling it. A minute after you’re like ‘Okay, I still have two more minutes to go.’ It’s not easy. It was a challenge.”
He joked that he made the right choice in pursuing a hockey career over a baseball career.
“No kidding,” Turgeon said. “I grew up with hockey. I started when I was three and I still do it once in awhile, so I still enjoy it. I love going on the ice it’s a place every time I step on that ice it feels grounded. Even today I go back on the ice and still enjoy it.”
In total, the even raised $36,500.