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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Richard Sherman charity softball game draws 22,000 to Safeco Field

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SEATTLE - Not that it should come as a surprise, but Seattle is still crazy about its Super Bowl champion Seahawks.

The latest example came Sunday when an announced crowd of 22,000 turned out at Safeco Field for Richard Sherman's charity softball game. After being played in a minor league baseball park in Tacoma last season, Sherman's event filled the entire lower bowl of the Seattle Mariners' home stadium from one foul pole to the other.

Sherman's event featured a litany of Seahawks teammates, including quarterback Russell Wilson, defensive end Michael Bennett, wide receiver Doug Baldwin and safety Earl Thomas. Also playing was Kobe Bryant, who said he hadn't swung a bat in 20 years.

It certainly didn't look that way in his first at-bat, with Bryant hitting a solo homer over the temporary fence in the outfield.

"I respect these guys tremendously and it's humbling, it's not something you can put into words," Sherman said before the game started. "You don't wake up one day and be like I'm going to have Kobe Bryant, Nate Robinson, Lawyer Milloy playing in my softball game, and Macklemore. It's something that happened and you're numb to the feeling until like years later when you realize that was a pretty incredible event."

Sherman was able to draw from a wide cross section of Seattle sports stars to participate in the event to benefit his foundation. Along with current NBA players Bryant, Robinson and Jamal Crawford, former Seattle SuperSonics stars Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton took part, as did Chris Hansen, the investor hoping to bring the NBA back to Seattle.

"He's a psycho like me," Bryant said of Sherman. "I think it's just mutual respect and I have a great amount of respect for people who work at their craft. When him and I met, we just talked and hit it off."

Bryant said it was his first time back in Seattle since the departure of the SuperSonics for Oklahoma City after the 2008 season. After earlier saying the Eagles were his favourite NFL team, Bryant admitted he needed to make up for that statement.

"I've always enjoyed coming here. I'd much rather come here in the post-season than Oklahoma," Bryant said.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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