The Reckless Kelly Celebrity Softball Jam adheres to a simple, yet wholly effective, operating principle: sports + music = good times.
As a result, the annual shindig has quickly become both a premier entertainment event and a formidable fundraising force, a daylong extravaganza in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This year's "jam" takes place on Sunday at the Dell Diamond, home of the Pacific Coast League's Round Rock Express.
In addition to the popular band of country roots rockers that headline the event (Reckless Kelly, naturally), the jam features a long, Texas-centric list of bold-faced names from the world of music and sports. The day begins with a celebrity softball game at 2 p.m., followed by a rapid fire concert featuring short performances from eight prominent country and western acts. The musical portion of the proceedings culminates in an epic jam session featuring all the performers, and the whole thing is capped off by a fireworks display (this is Minor League Baseball we're talking about, after all).
Admission is a scant $12, with proceeds benefiting local youth baseball organizations (including two branches of the Miracle League, which allows physically disabled youth to play the sport). Last year's event attracted more than 7,000 people and raised more than $30,000, and organizers hope to top those figures this year.
But to hear Reckless Kelly's Willy Braun tell it, the event came together with the ease of a backyard BBQ.
"[The band] was up at Round Rock one night, hanging out at the game, and we got to talking about how much fun it would be to get some musician buddies together and play some ball," recalled Braun, who founded the group with his brother Cody. "We've all been fans since we were little kids. You could say that baseball is the official sport of this band."
The Express were immediately receptive to the idea.
"We had wanted to put on a concert at the Dell Diamond to benefit the Miracle League -- and have it be Austin-centric," said Seamus Gallivan, co-founder and unofficial commissioner of the event. "Music is the pulse of that city, and Round Rock is just 20 minutes north. We thought this would be a good way to draw Austin music fans who aren't frequent visitors to the Dell Diamond."
This year's "musician buddies" include Cross Canadian Ragweed, the Trishas, Dale Watson, and the Motorcars. The athlete side of the equation includes former Major League pitcher Greg Swindell, NASCAR's Kyle Petty, and boxing champ Jesse James Leija.
"It's turned out to be a great formula and something that could grow and catch on in other places," said Gallivan.
The charitable component has certainly grown this year, with an online auction supplementing the silent auction and raffle. Fans can bid on an array of big ticket items, including a "Dream Day at Wrigley Field" made possible by Cubs pitcher (and big Reckless Kelly fan) Randy Wells.
"We try to keep things local, tie everything into baseball, and help kids," said Braun. "Basically, we believe that any kid who wants to play baseball should be able to."
And with all the proper ingredients in place, it looks like the Reckless Kelly Celebrity Softball Jam will help further this goal for a long time to come.
"We're going to keep doing this every year," said Braun. "I might get a little too old for it as far as the softball is concerned, but, yeah, it's going to keep on going."