Large crowd for Lardarius Webb softball game
ABERDEEN -- Hours before chasing down fly balls and legging out base hits, Baltimore Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb was greeted by a welcome sight.
As Webb pulled up to Ripken Stadium, he drove past a line of people backed up around the corner to attend his third annual charity softball game.
"When I saw the line, my heart dropped," Webb said. "I feel special. It's amazing. We have great fans."
The home of the Aberdeen IronBirds was practically filled to its capacity of 6,300 with fans taking in the sights of Webb and nearly two dozen teammates attempting an unfamiliar sport.
Webb took over a game manned for the previous two years by former Ravens Pro Bowl offensive guard Ben Grubbs, who signed with the New Orleans Saints in March.
The game benefits disadvantaged children.
"I just love seeing the smile on kids' faces when they see us out here, when we give them an autograph, when they take a picture with us," Webb said. "It does something to my heart. Just being out here, giving back to the kids and their families, it's just enjoyable."
Growing up in impoverished conditions in Opelika, Ala., Webb overcame a set of extremely difficult personal circumstances.
His mother was addicted to crack cocaine. His father was an alcoholic. And his older brother was imprisoned for armed robbery.
Both his parents are clean now, but his brother remains in jail.
And Webb is determined to give children an easier path than the one he took.
Signed to a $50 million contract this offseason, Webb is getting heavily involved in the community. That includes free football camps in his hometown and at Nicholls State, his alma mater.
"I want to let them see they can be anything they want and let them know that dreams can come true," Webb said. "Just seeing us out here, we can let them know that they can be anything they want. For me to see the smile on the kids' faces, it's a joy."
Added tight end Ed Dickson: "It's a great day. It's a positive thing. All the kids love it. It's great to give back."
Webb and his defensive teammates, including nose guard Terrence Cody, linebackers Jameel McClain and Dannell Ellerbe and rookie safety Christian Thompson, engineered a 14-13 comeback victory over a group of Ravens' offensive players headlined by quarterback Joe Flacco, wide receiver Torrey Smith, running back Ray Rice, offensive tackle Michael Oher and Dickson.
"It's fun," Flacco said. "It's getting bigger and bigger each year. It's always great to support your teammate's cause. I'm just out here having fun."
Flacco displayed a slick glove and hit a ground-rule double.
The game wasn't an intense competition and included a lot of joking around and several errors, including three in the first inning from cornerback Danny Gorrer.
Most importantly, there were no injuries.
"It's a fun game," Webb said. "It's about having a good time."
NOTES: Rookie offensive guard Kelechi Osemele said he'll be returning to practice this week after being sidelined at an organized team activity last week with an undisclosed injury.
"I feel great," said Osemele, a second-round draft pick competing with Jah Reid for the starting left guard job. "Yeah, I'll practice this week. It wasn't serious." ...
Among the other players who took part in the game: running backs Anthony Allen, Bernard Pierce and Damien Berry, wide receivers Tandon Doss, LaQuan Williams and Dorian Graham, offensive tackle Ramon Harewood, linebacker Josh Bynes, cornerbacks Corey Graham and Chykie Brown, long snapper Morgan Cox, center Gino Gradkowski, defensive linemen Ryan McBean and Bryan Hall.
photo courtesy of Brian Bower (aka The Sport Guy)