In the summer of 2012, over a quick lunch at the Roxy in Harrisburg, Lynn Deary, the president of Pennsylvania Legislative Services, told Corinna Vecsey Wilson, now president of Wilson500, that she had an idea.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if we could show people the more human side of the legislators, like the one we get to see every day at the Capitol?” she asked.
She’d always wanted to start an event similar to the Congressional baseball game held each year in Washington, D.C., she said.
By the end of lunch, some decisions were already made: the game would be softball so that women legislators would play, the teams would have to be truly bi-cameral and bi-partisan – a mix of chambers and parties – and the event would raise money for a good cause with statewide impact.
The Capitol All-Stars Softball Game was born.
By late winter, the legislative leaders had signed on as captains and the two statewide hunger-fighting organizations, Feeding Pennsylvania and Hunger-Free Pennsylvania, were on board as charitable partners.
Lynn and Corinna put together a superstar planning team, and with the help of the Harrisburg Senators, the Pennsylvania Cable Network, sponsors large and small, many volunteers, and the weather gods, that first game took place on a balmy early fall night under the lights at Metro Bank Park.
After a warm welcome from First Lady Susan Corbett, a display by the Pennsylvania National Guard Color Guard, a flyover by the Penn State Hershey Life Lions and a rousing rendition of the National Anthem by Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, the first pitch was thrown and we had ourselves a ball game!
The crowd in the stadium and viewers at home got to see the state’s lawmakers work together, cheer each other on, laugh, compete and share a few drinks in the dugout. Everyone had fun and miraculously, no one got hurt!
One of the inaugural game’s highlights was an earth-shaking collision at first base between Sen. Daylin Leach and Sen. Tim Solobay.
Then, after Rep. Jim Christiana’s brilliant, mid-air “snow cone” catch of Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi’s high pop hit, the announcers quipped, “that’s a beautiful catch but a sad end to what was a promising legislative career. He’ll never get a bill run in the Senate again.”
“We want to do this again next year,” members said as they filed out of the park after a decisive West team victory.
The winner’s trophy stood on display in the offices of Speaker Smith and Senator Costa through the winter, sparking occasional competitive comments from the losing East captains, Sen. Pileggi and Democratic House Leader Frank Dermody.
In 2014, on another lovely fall evening, the now-named Yinz and Youse teams (credit to Senator Leach’s staffer, Zach Hoover, for coming up with the names and the great jersey designs!) took the field for the second annual game. The Yinzers were determined to win again, but the Yousers were equally focused on unseating the victors to bring bragging rights home east of the Susquehanna.
It wasn’t meant to be as Yinz proved too good for Youse once again, with outstanding pitching by Rep. Bill Adolph, former East player Rep. Mike Sturla and Sen. Solobay. The Youse’s big bats came from Rep. Christiana, drafted East player Rep. Mike Schlossberg, 2013 MVP Rep. Brandon Neuman, Rep. Tom Sankey, Sen. Matt Smith, and one of the West’s best-kept secret weapons, Rep. Rob Matzie.
Memorable 2014 moments included a congratulatory hug from home base coach Republican Senator Mike Brubaker, founder and chairman of the Senate Hunger Caucus, after a daring run and slide home by Democratic Senator Mike Stack, who went on to win the Lieutenant Governor’s race about six weeks after the game.
Since that fateful day at the Roxy, and with the support of our incredible sponsors and working group, the Capitol All-Stars Game has raised over $130,000 to fight hunger in Pennsylvania. And in an era of otherwise partisan politics, we are proud to say that the game represents the best of the Pennsylvania General Assembly – coming together in good cheer to work for a common goal that will improve our state and the lives of so many.
We look forward to Monday September 28, 2015, when Yinz meets Youse for the third time at Metro Bank Park on City Island in Harrisburg. We hope you can join us there, become a sponsor, send in a donation, or even just cheer from home as you watch the game on TV!