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Artists And Writers To Slug It Out For Charity Softball Game Bragging Rights

Courtney File
Nicole Barylski

Mike Lupica at bat. (Photo: Lisa Tamburini)

The 71st Annual Artists and Writers Charity Softball Game is ready to step up to the plate on Saturday, August 17 at East Hampton's Herrick Park.

The Game was started in 1948 by a group of artists, which include Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Philip Pavia and Jackson Pollock.

"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," local Long Island artist Leif Hope, who has directed The Game for the past 39 years, as well as served as president of the non-profit board, relayed. Hope is known for recruiting many celebrities throughout the years, including Yogi Berra, Christie Brinkley, Joe Torre and even Bill Clinton.

A new partnership with Guild Hall has led to some exciting newbies playing, including guitarist and musical legend GE Smith, his wife, producer Taylor Barton, NYC Ballet executive director Jon Stafford and multi-media artist Clifford Ross. Guild Hall's Executive Director Andrea Grover relayed The Game "aligns with our own legacy as a vibrant part of the history of artists and writers on the East End."

"Our partnering with Guild Hall gives our fundraising 'an office', both a professional boost and a place for people to go. Guild Hall did a great job with our 65th Anniversary in 2013 and their work on that celebration led to our highest levels of fundraising and community participation. That year, The Game was able to give generously to our charities," stated Hope.

Spectators are welcome to watch batting practice starting at 1:30 p.m. while they get ready for the first pitch at 3:00 p.m.

Following in the footsteps of John Franco and Jim Levritz who have played for The Writer's team, this year's coaches will be The New Yorker's Ken Auletta and sportswriter/novelist Mike Lupica. The Writers' expected roster will include Alec Sokolow, Andy Friedman, Ann Liguori, Benito Vila, Bill Collage, Bill Evans, Brett Mauser, Brett Shevak, Daniel Pulick, David Baer, Diane McInerney, Elise Trucks, Erika Katz, Gabrielle Bluestone, Harry Javer, Jay Cardiello, Keith Kelly, Kerrie Vila, Lance Romance, Mark Weinstein, Peter Bové, Peter Wood, Richard Weise, Rick Leventhal, Remy Kassimir, Rob Levi, Ron Duguay, Stone Abramson, Tom LaGrassa, Walter Issacson, and Zack Greenberg.

Hope, along with architect Ronnette Riley, will manage The Artists' roster. Expected participants include Brian Pfund, Chloe Gifkins, Chris Wragge, Clifford Ross, Delfina Blacquier, Ed Hollander, Eddie McCarthy, GE Smith, Joe Sopiak, Jon Stafford, Lance Corey, Nikki Donen, Peter Borish, Peter Cook, Rebecca Underdown, Robert Tuchman, Ron Noy, Sean O'Donnell, Stu Sleppin, Taylor Barton, Walter Bernard, William Quigley, and Zak Meers

"Having Ronnette Riley as vice president and David Brandman as treasurer gives us continuity from years past. Having Gabrielle Bluestone as secretary and Benito Vila as president sets us up for the future. I'm excited by the energy they'll bring to The Game. A long-running event like this can slacken in popularity, but with these two adding their youth and enthusiasm, we're in good hands," Hope added.

Steve Litras, Dan Rattiner, Ed Bleier, and New York State Supreme Court Justice Richard Lowe III will serve as umpires.

New president, Benito Vila, shared, "Even though I grew up in Cincinnati, I somehow knew of the game as a kid. I was first asked to play as an Artist, because I had once led a graphic design firm, but was immediately sent to the other side when I showed up because I had been writing local sports pieces. It's that sort of game; it's both friendly and intense. And you have to stay on your toes: I've had a presidential candidate call balls and strikes behind me, and I've had a Yankee legend as my catcher. I've also had perfectly pleasant artists describe me as a 'dirty, no-good writer'." Of his new role, Vila added, "To pick up from where Leif has taken the game and to enter into a partnership with Guild Hall is exciting for me and the rest of the board. What we're looking to do this year is involve the local and summer communities more, open up the game to more celebrities and contribute all we can to the local charities that are The Game's beneficiaries--The Eleanor Whitmore Early Childhood Center, Phoenix House Academy, The Retreat, and East End Hospice. Those local non-profits provide essential services for communities of the East End, and the board is delighted to have Guild Hall on the team to help spread their message. Besides, I'll bet almost everyone playing in The Game is in some ways hoping they get to have an opening or a show at Guild Hall. For me, this is unfussy way to be part of the museum's program."

So, don't miss the exciting action and a chance to support several local charities.

"Our game is one of the few fundraisers out here that anyone can attend. We have a 'suggested' $10 admission and we never turn anyone away. In fact, we find a lot of our year-in-year-out fans give more. We are also a rare summer fundraiser in that we're raising money for local non-profits. A number of the charity events out here each summer are for national organizations," Hope concluded.

For more information, visit www.awgame.org.




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