Legendary game pits artists v. writers to aid four local charities

Going To Bat For Good Causes




Mike Lupica at bat. Independent/Courtesy Artists & Writers Charity Softball Game

The 71st annual Artists & Writers Charity Softball Game will be held August 17 at East Hampton’s Herrick Park, and there’s bound to be some surprising faces as long as some familiar ones. Organizers never know who’s going to show up, and that at-the-last-minute, Hamptons-summer reality makes it even more interesting when those like former MLB catcher and Yankees Manager Joe Torre, Cincinnati Reds and New York Mets left-handed pitcher John Franco, President Bill Clinton, and New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani decide to stop by.

“We never truly know who will come out for the game, and, over the years, we’ve been able to surprise our fans with talented people they never thought they’d see running around on a softball field,” said Leif Hope, longtime organizer of the event. “Our game is also one of the few fundraisers out here that anyone can attend.”

There’s a suggested $10 admission, although attendees are never turned away. Hope said, in fact, he finds the year-in-year-out fans give more. What makes the fundraiser, which raises money from sponsorships, donations, and T-shirt sales, different from other seasonal campaigns, is the event doesn’t benefit a national organization.

“We are a rare summer fundraiser in that we raise money for local nonprofits,” Hope said. “The money this game raises stays in the community and benefits those who live here.”

The four local beneficiaries — The Eleanor Whitmore Early Childhood Center, Phoenix House Academy of Long Island, The Retreat, and East End Hospice — provide essential services for all ages and communities across the East End.

The East Hampton-based Eleanor Whitmore Early Childhood Center supports local families by being the only not-for-profit educational organization providing full-day, year-round child care; the Phoenix House in Wainscott serves young men ages 18-30 who are struggling with drug or alcohol addiction; The Retreat in East Hampton provides domestic violence and sexual assault services and education to families; and Westhampton Beach-based East End Hospice provides care and comfort for terminally ill patients, their families, and loved ones living on the North and South forks and Brookhaven township.

“This game features nationally-known musicians, journalists, painters, models, publishers, singers, reporters, producers, designers, actors, and broadcasters — who may never be together in one place except for this game — all showing up to play for the local ‘good,’” said Artists & Writers Charity Softball Game board president, writer, and longtime player Benito Vila, who worked with East Hampton’s Guild Hall to strategize development and marketing for this year’s game. “Yes, it’s a bit like a backyard game in that you’ll see 20-year-olds on the field with 70-year-olds. Still, it’s one of the most interesting games of softball you’ll ever see.”

“Every year the unexpected happens,” he continues. “Like the year we had Rudy Giuliani umpiring and Carl Bernstein catching. Who thought you’d ever see those two agree on anything?”

Joe Franco, Joe Torre and Carl Bernstein in 2016. Mike Lupica at bat. Independent/Courtesy Artists & Writers Charity Softball Game

The involvement of Guild Hall has led to new player participation, including former “Saturday Night Live” musical director G.E. Smith; his wife, producer Taylor Barton; NYC Ballet executive director Jon Stafford; model, photographer, and skincare entrepreneur Rebecca Underdown; musician and photographer Chloe Gifkins; model and social media influencer Sean O’Donnell; broadcaster and hockey legend Ron Duguay; ABC weatherman and new WLNG proprietor Bill Evans; CBS correspondent and “Inside Edition” weekend anchor Diane McInerney; screenwriter Daniel Pulick; Emmy award-winning filmmaker Rob Levi; stand-up comedian, actor, and podcaster Remy Kassimir; and financial writer Stone Abramson.

Raffles and field-side seating will be available starting at 1:15 PM Saturday. Player batting practice starts at 1:30 PM. The artist and writer squads will be lining up for pre-game festivities at 2:45 PM. Choral Society of the Hamptons is singing the national anthem, and Paramount’s Hot Bench judge Pat DiMango will deliver the ceremonial first pitch at 3 PM.

Singer-songwriter Caroline Doctorow — whose father, the late, great writer E.L. Doctorow, played in games past — is expected to perform her rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” during the seventh-inning stretch.

August 17 is a “Day of Celebration” planned by East Hampton Village, with the East Hampton Chamber of Commerce staging its first Summer Festival, from 10 AM to 5 PM, in the playground area adjacent to the field off Newtown Lane. Following the Artists & Writers game, the East Hampton Fire Department is hosting its annual fireworks display at Main Beach, set to start at 8:30 PM.

“With the Artists & Writers game as our centerpiece, this is going to be a great day for East Hampton Village,” said Mayor Paul Rickenbach. “The game always brings out the best in everyone, especially in generating much-needed support for the local non-profits our community relies on. The game also helps us all appreciate the special creative talent we have in our community. Nowhere else do so many people give their time in such a generous way.”

desiree@indyeastend.com