Former Kentucky basketball star Keith Bogans came to the Coach Cal Celebrity Softball Classic ill-prepared.
His son bought him a glove. “I’m a right-hander,” Bogans said. “He bought a left-hander’s glove. … I guess I have no baseball skills.”
Bogans, who smiled as he told the story, wasn’t the only participant who came to Whitaker Bank Ballpark on Sunday with a light-hearted attitude.
Former UK point guard Andrew Harrison said he had not touched a glove or a baseball since tee ball. “I’m really nervous right now,” he said. “I’ll try to hold it together.”
Former UK quarterback Tim Couch was even more of a rookie. “This will be my first experience playing softball … ,” he said. “I played football and basketball. We’ll see how this goes. It should be interesting.”
Judging by the cheers and good-natured laughs, a crowd of about 2,500 found the home run contest (won by Karl-Anthony Towns) and the softball game interesting.
Of course, the game had a serious purpose. Proceeds went to the American Red Cross to help fun flood relief efforts in Louisiana.
UK Coach John Calipari tweeted Sunday that the softball event raised more than $300,000. A promotion starting Monday by one of the event’s sponsors, Papa John’s pizza, could double the donation, Calipari said.
Towns saluted the charitable spirit of Kentucky fans. The fundraiser, he said, “shows the character of BBN.”
Pro football Hall of Famer Cris Carter echoed the sentiment.
“I’m an Ohio State guy, but this is real,” he said. “There’s only a few programs in the country that have the realness, the tradition of it, the quality. That’s the reason I came to Kentucky.”
Carter said he had a relationship with Calipari that dates back to the Five-Star Basketball Camp, where he was a player and Calipari his coach.
“I’m a fan of Coach Cal,” Carter said, “and the way he does things. The way he treats people. I was in love with him as a coach.”
After getting a laugh by saying Calipari reacted to his basketball skills by pointing him toward football, Carter added, “You don’t run into people like him in your life by accident. All the success (he’s had), he was a star then. Just the time he took with me. You could tell he was going to be a star.”
Calipari put the softball fundraiser in the context of maximizing the potential of being the Kentucky coach. “The greatest thing about being coach here (is to) move people for good.”
The softball game was part of the annual John Calipari Basketball Fantasy Experience. The fantasy camp raised about $1 million for 14 charities and organizations, The Calipari Foundation announced in a news release.
Meanwhile, fundraising efforts continue in Louisiana. LSU announced last week that its basketball coach, Johnny Jones, and former All-American Shaquille O’Neal plan a golf event for Sept. 16.
Proceeds from the golf event, which will be played at the Carter Plantation in Springfield, La., will be donated to flood relief.
More information is available by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or calling Brittany Carvalhido at 225-578-8217.
Given the unblinking basketball interest of Kentucky fans, it was not surprising that the softball event included a mention of the serious business involving UK’s 2016-17 season.
During a pre-game appearance with Lexington personality Dave Baker, Calipari offered a few thoughts at this embryonic point in team development.
Calipari said he set goals for Isaiah Briscoe’s effort to improve as a shooter: 30 percent from three-point range and 68 percent from the foul line. “If he does that, he’s a lottery pick …,” the UK coach said. “So do it.”
As a freshman last season, Briscoe made 13.5 percent of his three-point shots and 46 percent of his free throws.
Though hampered by a high ankle sprain, freshman Edrice “Bam” Adebayo is a physical presence weighing 260 pounds and having only four percent body fat, Calipari said.
Calipari also said freshman guards De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk “will be two of the best players in the country.”