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Country Royalty Collides in Charity Softball Game

Lindsay Ell, Bret Michaels, Doug McCormick and Lauren Alaina
John Shearer/Getty Images for City Of Hope

Lindsay Ell, Bret Michaels, Doug McCormick and Lauren Alaina step up to strike out cancer at City of Hope's 25th Annual Celebrity Softball Game at First Tennessee Park on June 13, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Grand Ole Opry has a tradition of being part of what is good and wholesome in country music. However, for a few hours each June, morning radio phenom Bobby Bones begs to differ.

“The Opry team is a bunch of cheaters,” Bones told Billboard before the 25th Annual City of Hope Celebrity Softball Game – an event that was one of the most highly anticipated events of the CMA Music Festival, and took place on Saturday. “They always pull some strings and come out winning. This year will be different.”

When told of Bones’ comments, Team Opry pitcher Vince Gill said he would expect no less than trash talk from his iHeart Radio counterpart. “He has a microphone, doesn’t he?”

Of course, the comments from both men were made with tongue planted firmly in cheek; the Country Music Hall of Fame member Gill has played in the game for 20 of its 25 years. “It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a great way to give back. I’ve been looking forward to it,” the singer said.

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Among the artists who participated in the game were Chuck Wicks, Bret Michaels, Deana Carter, JT Hodges, Lauren Alaina,  Love and Theft and Phil Vassar. Joining in the milestone game were employees of The Bobby Bones Show, Nashville star Charles Esten, ABC correspondent Rachel Smith, and current and former Nashville Predators Seth Jones and Stu Grimson.

Angie Johnson – a former contestant of The Voice who has served in both the United States Air Force and the Air National Guard – delivered a flawless version of the National Anthem. Before the first pitch was thrown, the crowds cheered wildly as Nashville native Stephen Bess – who received lifesaving treatment for acute lymphocytic leukemia more than two years ago at City of Hope – and his genetically matched, life-saving stem cell donor Jonas Baade crossed nine time zones to meet on the pitcher’s mound for the very first time.

The game – played at First Tennessee Park in downtown Nashville – also turned out to be quite memorable. Despite Team Opry loading up the bases in the top of the first, neither team could muster any scoring offense early on. However, Team iHeart scored with a four-run third inning to take a 4-0 lead. Due to momentum from a run from Chuck Wicks, Team Opry rallied in the fourth and the top of the fifth, eventually taking a 5-4 lead going into the bottom of the fifth. Then Bret Michaels became the hero of the day on Team iHeart, belting a hit that brought in Baade to give Bones’ squad their first-ever win in the game with a 6-5 victory.

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