July 31, 2018
Connie Leonard | WAVE3
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - If you're a baseball fan, this is your week to be in Louisville. Former Major League All Stars including Hall of Famers Johnny Bench and the newly inducted Chipper Jones are taking part in the Bluegrass World Series.
Players and organizers are hoping this event, new to Louisville, gets bigger and better every year. The stars are here for the chance to play ball once again, and to benefit military charities USA Cares and the Hershel "Woody" Williams Foundation.
"Our motto at the Hershel "Woody" Williams Foundation is 'the cause is greater than I'," Chad Graham with the foundation said. "And that cause is our Gold Star families who sacrificed a loved one in military service so we can be free."
If you'd like tickets to see the stars in action and help military families, click here.
The former major leaguers become part of the Derby City under the team name, the 'Louisville Stars,' taking on semi pros and college all-star teams.
Former Yankees All-Star Nick Swisher is playing for the Louisville Stars.
"It's great to be out here with all these guys to enjoy the old stories," Swisher said.
Big Leaguers like Johnny Damon, Corky Miller and St. Xavier grad Chris Burke, who played for the Astros and several teams before finishing up with the Reds, got the Louisville Stars on the board in the second inning Monday night. And Burke says, yes fans, it's competitive.
Monday's Doug Flynn-managed team won the week's opener, 5-0.
"He's like, 'you guys are still pretty good'," Burke laughed. He said the players are mostly ages 35 to 45 and are still active.
"Most of us have a good week in us, you know," Burke said. "We couldn't do it for eight months anymore, but if you say, 'hey go out there and play three ball games', we can pull that together."
Former players are donating their time, like Chipper Jones, who was just inducted into the Hall of Fame Sunday. Jones' wife is pregnant with his seventh child, and due at any time.
Burke says the Bluegrass World Series is taking care of them with plenty of events for their families, and golf outings for the players. Besides a home run for the charities, it's a big hit for city business, with an estimated $2.5 million economic impact for Louisville and 15,000 tickets already sold.
"Anything from hotels to restaurants to transportation to bourbon,"Rosanne Mastin with Lou Tourism said. "So they're getting a taste of Louisville, and hopefully that will make them want to come back."
300 Gold Star families will be at the Johnny Bench Game Friday night, and it features the oldest living Medal of Honor winner, who's 94. He'll be throwing out the first pitch with Bench.
The Chipper Jones Hall of Fame game is Wednesday night. The Championships will be on Saturday.