The cars, trucks and RVs began lining up to get into the parking lot at Cheney Stadium at 8 a.m., and the lot was full a half-hour before the scheduled noontime opening of the gates for Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman’s inaugural celebrity softball game.
The sellout crowd of roughly 7,000 created another rarity: a smattering of people posted up on Tightwad Hill at nearby Foss High School to catch a free glimpse of Sunday’s festivities.
A spillover crowd clad in blue and green in mid-July cheering every move of pro football players competing in what amounted to a beer league game was yet another indication of the Super Bowl-or-bust expectations that face the Seahawks when training camp begins in 17 days.
“The fans can’t wait for football to start,” Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor said. “We can’t wait for training camp to start. We’re ready to get out there and compete with our teammates, and see what they’ve been working on this whole offseason, and to see if they’re ready to compete for a championship this year.
“And I know the fans are ready to see it.”
Sherman’s event drew Seattle’s best, including quarterback Russell Wilson, safety Earl Thomas and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, along with receivers Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin.
Non-Seattle players of note included Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald, future Hall of Famer Terrell Owens, Sonics legend Shawn Kemp and hometown Tacomans Lawyer Milloy and brothers Marcus and Desmond Trufant.
Overseeing it all was replacement official Lance Easley, the referee who signaled touchdown on Golden Tate’s disputed winning catch in the Seaahawks’ 14-12 win over Green Bay last September .
The game — a 20-all tie that was settled by a home run derby — raised funds for Homes for Heroes — a charity that provides financial assistance to emergency services personnel across the country during times of documented, personal financial need — and The Richard Sherman Family Foundation, which focuses on helping inner city youths.
“A lot of times what they think is possible is so boxed in because of the limited opportunities they have,” Sherman said, when asked why his foundation is supporting inner city kids. “They don’t have the school supplies. They don’t have the resources they need to be as successful as somebody in a suburban neighborhood, a nice neighborhood. So I’m just trying to even out the playing field a little bit, and give them an opportunity and resources they need to be successful.”
Milloy, a Lincoln High School and University of Washington standout who finished his 15-year NFL career in Seattle, said he’s encouraged to see the strong bond his former teammates have developed.
“The fan support, obviously they’re very excited of where we’re going as a team,” Milloy said. “I think we’re built not only for the near future, but for the long term to last. The support here just shows everybody’s excited.
“I’m just happy that I did my part, and left a legacy behind. The best compliment for a player is for people to say, ‘Thanks for what you did. Thanks for giving these young guys a head start.’ ”
Added Wilson, whose team defeated Sherman’s squad on a blast by Walter Thurmond in the closing home run derby: “It’s a great experience for us to be out here. It’s a family, that’s what it’s all about.”