Carson Wentz addressed a partially filled Citizens Bank Park with more than 30 teammates present on Friday night, thanking fans who came to the ballpark while the Phillies were on the opposite side of the country to see the Eagles’ offensive players compete against the defensive players in softball.
It was Wentz’s second AO1 Foundation charity softball game, his foundation’s signature event and another illustration of the draw of Wentz and the Eagles in Philadelphia.
“I don’t think I could have gone to a better city that fits my personality,” Wentz said in a news conference before the game. “The blue-collar work ethic, the passion they bring in everything they do. So I love it here, absolutely love it here. The fact that the city gets behind this event, gets behind what we’re doing from a foundation, obviously they get behind us in a huge way when it comes to football.”
Wentz said he felt comfortable and embraced since coming to Philadelphia, adjusting to a faster-paced lifestyle compared to his native North Dakota. He added he will continue to keep his eyes open to how he can expand his presence in the area, and noted the community efforts of his teammates.
The proceeds of the event go to support Wentz’s three initiatives: a sports complex in Haiti, an outdoor program in the Midwest, and the Thy Kingdom Crumb food truck in Philadelphia. The food truck has provided more than 8,000 free meals throughout the region. Wentz announced Friday that the foundation is adding an ice cream truck, too.
There was green throughout the lower bowl of the ballpark, and a stroll through the main concourse didn’t show Bryce Harper or Rhys Hoskins jerseys, but rather Wentz’s No. 11 and shirts with the “AO1” logo that is inked on Wentz’s right wrist. (“AO1” stands for “audience of one.") They stayed to see tight end Richard Rodgers hit a walk-off home run into the leftfield bleachers to give the offense a 17-16 win in a game that featured 25 hits and 11 errors in six innings.
The player who received the biggest ovation during introductions was DeSean Jackson, who led off and played center field for the Eagles’ offense. Rodgers won the home run derby, sending the softballs beyond the makeshift outfield fence and out of the Phillies’ field of play. He beat Jake Elliott, who hit the most home runs in the opening round. As was evident one year ago, the Eagles’ kicker and smallest player on the field Friday knows how the swing the bat. They both topped offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski, last year’s home run derby winner.
Wentz’s teammates showed that they’re better at football than softball. There were a few on-field blunders -- Jackson would have been marked with an E-8 in the opening inning -- but there were more home runs and creative trots. Sidney Jones danced while approaching home plate after a homer. Kamu Grugier-Hill pretended to go bowling. Dallas Goedert had a bat flip that would make the White Sox’ Tim Anderson proud. Jason Kelce trotted with bat in hand and ate a hot dog. The team known for its touchdown celebrations made sure that the fun crossed Pattison Avenue.
There were more than 20 players who participated in the home run derby and game, but even more Eagles were in the dugout and on the field sharing the night with teammates. That included safety Malcolm Jenkins, who has been absent from organized team activities. Lane Johnson, who has also been absent, played in the game. Alshon Jeffery, another absent veteran, was seen in the dugout on social media. Former Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith, now on the Carolina Panthers, attended to support Wentz.
“For us, it’s football, football all the time,” Wentz said. “So to break up the monotony and come play a game like this, have some fun, see the fans, and just have a really
have a good night like this means a lot.”
Wentz did not play, though. He coached and helped organized the event. It was the second consecutive year Wentz sat – he was recovering from a torn ACL last year – but he took some practice swings during warmups. Wentz said it brought back memories of playing high school baseball in North Dakota in 40-degree weather. If he played, Wentz said he would pencil himself in at shortstop and bat third.
And in future charity games – assuming Wentz and the Eagles agree on a long-term contract – Wentz will likely step into the batter’s box.
“Maybe next year you’ll see me at least in the home run derby,” Wentz said.