Michael Bolton makes
a pitch for charity

A story by Tom Knapp,
September 1993

Superstar pop singer Michael Bolton and a bevy of local radio celebrities might have sore throats for the next few days. That's what happens to people who get caught -- and continue playing ball -- in a torrential downpour.

Bolton was scheduled to perform at Hersheypark Stadium Friday night, but the concert was postponed because of the stormy weather. However, he did get some swings in as an afternoon charity softball game matched Bolton's Bombers against the Central Pennsylvania All-Stars, a team culled from the softball teams of several local radio stations.

The masses who packed the Bob Hoffman Stadium in York, Pa., appeared to be there more for Bolton than for ball. They clustered at the gate where he was expected to enter, screamed madly when his limousine appeared and did their best to push past security to touch the singer in his cap and softball togs.

The crowd went wild whenever Bolton walked onto the ballfield, whether he was up at bat, manning third base or coaching his team's runners on first.

Wearing a lucky No. 7 on the back of his uniform and hefting a black, 30-ounce Louisville Slugger, he also wore a knee brace which prevented him from running out his hits. The brace, he said during a pre-game interview, will keep him from rounding the bases for another two months. But it won't keep him from the field.

An avid ballplayer in his youth, Bolton said the recording industry is rather unforgiving when it comes to other interests. "When I turned 17 I didn't have time for anything else but music," he said. Responsibilities crowded in, he said, "whenever you try to squeeze in any reasonable facsimile of a life."

That changed, he said, when he realized that several members of his band enjoyed softball as well. So he put together a softball team and began challenging local teams on his concert tours.

"What we found out was that we could have a lot of fun and raise money for charities at the same time," Bolton said. "It's a win-win."

When Bolton's new album is released in November, the singer said he will launch another world tour.

"We're going to challenge the champion in every city" to a ball game, he said. "We'll try not to let the shows get in the way of our games."

The game Friday raised $3,000 for the Child Abuse Prevention Committee of Central Pennsylvania and another $3,000 for the Michael Bolton Foundation. The foundation provides funds nationally to assist women and children at risk from poverty and abuse, and expand opportunities for youth across social, economic and cultural lines.

"It's a great way of life, and it's a great way to give something back," Bolton said. "There's no reason why celebrities ... should not be doing fund-raising on a regular basis ... The government is tapped out."

The game started shortly before 2:30 p.m., and it was obvious from the start that the crowd was behind the Bombers.

But the radio All-Stars had its share of supporters too, and they shouted lustily in the team's support. Of course, everyone has a soft spot for the underdog.

And underdogs they were. The game was a rout as the Bombers prevailed, 22-7.

It wouldn't have been so bad for the All-Stars if they had just skipped the first inning. But that inning buried the disc jockeys at the onset and they never managed to dig themselves out.

The Bombers were first to bat and, after one easy pop out to right field, the team strolled around the bases with little opposition. Bolton, who batted second, hit a shot to left field and his pinch runner made it easily to third base.

The team batted around and Bolton came up again. Although his pinch runner was tagged out at first, the Bombers ended the inning with 10 runs.

The All-Stars went three up, three down.

Bolton held his own throughout the game, popping out in the third inning and hitting a double to left field in the fifth. On defense, he snared a line drive in the third.

Thunder started to rumble in the distance midway through the third inning. The rain began, along with a general exodus of fans, in the bottom of the fifth. Moments later, a grand slam by the radio stars brought them within 10 runs of the Bombers.

Midway through the sixth inning it started to pour, and Bolton -- perhaps worried about his singing voice that night -- was slow to take his position. But the teams slogged through another inning, making it into the seventh before calling the game.

[ by Tom Knapp ]