The Caroline Symmes’ Memorial Challenge celebrity softball game has become a summertime staple in Indianapolis, where dozens of pro athletes with ties to the city come out in support of the Indiana Children’s Wish Fund.
On Thursday evening, Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly joined in the fun, participating in the annual event for the first time at Victory Field, home of the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians baseball team.
“First time at Victory Field, first time doing a charity softball event,” said Rossi, who drives the No. 98 Honda for Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian. “It was really cool and it was a huge turnout, which is amazing to see. It’s a great cause, so I’m happy to be a part of it.”
Competing for the Homerun Hitters, captained by former Indianapolis Colt and event co-host Robert Mathis, Rossi and Daly went a combined 0-for-2 at the plate. But Daly flashed good leather in the final inning to help preserve the Hitters’ 8-2 lead.
The AJ Foyt Racing driver snagged a fly ball off the bat of Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton in right field to record the second out of the seventh inning, helping to seal the win for the Hitters.
“Well, I never played baseball growing up,” Daly admitted, “so the fact that that ball was coming straight at my face – I just tried to focus in. We’ve got a lot of adrenalin in our lives, so it worked and I was able to catch it.
“It was fun, man,” the Noblesville, Indiana, native added. “What a cool event. So many people here, all for the kids, so that’s awesome. It was fun to just get out there and play. A lot of really incredible athletes out here, so it’s cool to be a part of it.”
Two other athletes took particular interest in meeting Daly and Rossi. Ryan Thompson, a former baseball player and World Series champion with the New York Yankees in 2000, also played for the Hitters. Ryan’s son, Trevor, a 7-foot graduate of Indianapolis’ Ben Davis High School and basketball standout at Ohio State University entered in next week’s NBA Draft, was an interested spectator.
“It was awesome, just asking them questions about racing, because I find it super fascinating,” Trevor Thompson said. “My dad did a little bit of drag racing back in the day, so I was interested in what they do, how they train to do what they do at the speeds they do.”
The event is named for Caroline Symmes, an Indiana Children’s Wish child who died in December 2009 after being involved in the inaugural softball event. Throughout the evening, fellow Wish kids had opportunities to interact with athletes on the field, in a night that left everyone smiling.
“It gets bigger each and every year, and that’s a tribute to the city,” said Mathis, who retired from the NFL at the end of the 2016 season but remains deeply involved in the community. “Everybody’s jumped behind it, supporting it, and you can’t say enough about this city. Everybody comes together and supports it. Football, baseball, INDYCAR, basketball. You name it, everybody’s here.”
Mathis, who wore the same No. 98 in his Colts career as Rossi has for his car number, drove the pace car at last month’s INDYCAR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Mathis enjoyed his time engaging with Rossi and Daly.
“I got introduced to INDYCAR through Josef Newgarden,” he added, “and to have Conor and Alex here is great. And Alex, he’s an Indy 500 champion, and number 98! So it’s magical, I just feel fortunate to be a part of this, and glad they were able to join us.”