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City of Hope Celebrity Softball Game hits a home run in its 25th year at CMA Fest

It was a home run for the 25th Annual City of Hope Celebrity Softball Game, which saw more than 20 music and sports stars step up to the plate to strike out cancer at First Tennessee Park in Nashville. Team iHeart topped Team Opry in a down to the wire 6 to 5 win.

While Bret Michaels, Bobby Bones and the rest of the iHeart Team earned bragging rights, it is the patients at City of Hope who are the real winners with more than $200,000 raised for cancer research.

Country music icon Vince Gill returned to the field to play his 20th game in 25 years alongside country standouts Aaron Watson, Angie Johnson, Chuck Wicks, Bret Michaels, Bucky Covington, Deana Carter, JT Hodges, Lauren Alaina, Lindsay Ell, Love And Theft, and Phil Vassar. Joining in the milestone game were The Bobby Bones Show, Nashville star Charles Esten, ABC correspondent Rachel Smith, and current and former Nashville Predators’ Seth Jones and Stu Grimson.

Thousands of fans packed the ballpark to catch the action and antics on the field. Before the first pitch was thrown, the crowds cheered wildly as Nashville native Stephen Bess, who received lifesaving treatment for acute lymphocytic leukemia more than two years ago at City of Hope, and his genetically matched, life-saving stem cell donor Jonas Baade crossed nine time zones to meet on the pitcher’s mound for the very first time.

The fan favorite game didn’t disappoint, as the score tied up 5 to 5 in the final inning, with iHeart’s Bret Michaels up to the plate. In true poetic fashion, a solid hit brought in the hero of the day and game winning run, stem cell donor Jonas Baade.

A pioneer in the treatment of bone and blood marrow diseases, City of Hope has performed more than 12,000 lifesaving bone marrow transplants. It also is a leading biomedical research institute for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening illnesses. The City of Hope Celebrity Softball Game, presented by Staples and sponsored by PEOPLE Country, raises funds for that research.

Those unable to attend the game can still support the cause. A variety of unique merchandise and experiences, including meet-and-greets with the hottest artists, will be available for bid at The proceeds will benefit City of Hope’s mission to eradicate cancer and other life-threatening diseases.