I was chatting recently with Jennifer LaRoche, Jill Hairston and Chelsey Desmond — the wives of Adam, Scott and Ian — about their participation in Sunday’s Wounded Warrior Celebrity Softball Classic at Nats Park. Jennifer LaRoche said all three wives had enjoyed taking batting practice during this summer’s family day event, which helped lead to their participation in Sunday’s game.
“Jill Hairston is the DI softball player,” LaRoche then pointed out. “So everyone needs to watch for her.”
“No way, I’m not DI,” said Hairston, who actually was a collegiate pitcher and first baseman for Central Arizona, a junior college. “I’ve got to tell you, Desi over there at shortstop, she’s the one to watch out for. She can play. I’m telling you, watch her, she can play.”
“I did make a public comment that I taught Ian everything he knows,” admitted Chelsey Desmond, herself a shortstop at what was then Manatee Community College. “So this is my chance to own it. I have to really show my people where he got this from.”
The annual event — which will begin after Sunday’s 1:35 game with the Phillies — raises awareness for the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball team. (A portion of the proceeds from tickets purchased at nationals.com/celebritysoftball will also be donated to the team.)
That group, which features veterans and active-duty military members who have had at least one amputation, regularly wipes the diamond with its celebrity opponents. Sunday’s prey includes representatives of the Nats, like bench coach Randy Knorr, first-base coach Tony Tarasco, radio voices Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler, and MASN analyst F.P. Santangelo.
There are also more traditional celebrities, including Brian Dietzen from NCIS, Sakina Jaffrey (the chief of staff in House of Cards), swimmer Katie Ledecky, NBC News correspondent Luke Russert, and Admiral Sandy Winnefeld, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
But for novelty, it’s hard to beat three Nats wives. Like, you’re surely wondering whether Nats unofficial mascot Drake LaRoche will be offering his own guidance to mom before Sunday’s game begins.
“Oh, Drake will be standing there, coaching me the entire way,” Jennifer LaRoche confirmed. “Believe me, he thinks he knows everything, and he will definitely make sure to tell me what I need to do and how I need to do it.”
And whether the Nats players themselves are offering any preemptive advice.
“Not over here, not in the Desmond household,” Chelsey said. “They’ll be watching, but I think they’re in denial. You know, they’re focused on their own season right now. I don’t think they’re really going to pay any attention to it until the game is on.”
And whether the former players will insist on occupying their collegiate positions.
“I think outfield would be a good idea for those of us who are getting older,” Hairston insisted. “Our reaction time is not the same as it used to be. I’m afraid to get a little too close.”
And, of course, what their walk-up music will be, assuming they’re allowed to choose.
“Probably a little bit of Vanilla Ice,” LaRoche said.
“I’m thinking totally ’90s music,” Hairston agreed.
(For the record, Jordan Zimmermann’s spouse also wanted in the game, but was shut down by doctors. “I know Jordan’s wife was dying to play, but she’s pretty pregnant right now,” Desmond said. “They didn’t think that was the safest thing.”)
The front office, and the wives, are encouraging fans on Sunday to stick around, trying to put as large an audience as possible in the stands.
“I want that place to be full,” Chelsey Desmond said.
“So they can all see her moves at short,” someone else chimed in. “Everyone needs to watch Chelsey play shortstop.”
“No, it’s nothing about Chelsey,” Desmond said. “It’s about the warriors.”
Which is why the wives said they wouldn’t have any nerves Sunday evening.
“This is just for fun, and really, to support the soldiers who have really been through a lot,” Jennifer LaRoche said. “For them to come back like they have is pretty amazing. Really, it’s just to highlight them, to show all the other soldiers going through hard times that they can do it, too — they can come back, and enjoy the rest of their lives.”