On the football field, the Ravens are all professional players, more or less competitive against each other in any setting.
On the softball field, however, the talent gap is wider. There are those who played baseball into high school, like tight end Maxx Williams, and there are those who have never played before, like rookie offensive tackle Stephane Nembot.
Nembot, who signed with the Ravens last month as an undrafted free agent, is from Douala, Cameroon, where no one plays baseball.
“So last time [I played] was never,” Nembot said with a smile. “Just grabbing the bat would be nice.”
Ravens safety Lardarius Webb hosted his seventh annual charity softball game Sunday at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, where the team’s offense bested the defense in a lighthearted affair, 14-8. Proceeds for the game go to Webb’s foundation, which supports Baltimore’s Boys and Girls Club as well as the United Way of central Maryland.
Much of the Ravens’ 90-man roster made appearances at the game, showing off a broad range of softball skill sets. Like Nembot, some of the Ravens’ more productive players on the football field also admitted their talents don’t fully extend to the diamond.
Linebacker C.J. Mosley said he hadn’t swung a bat in years. Asked how his game stacked up, wide receiver Steve Smith said, “Suspect. Gear looks great. Game doesn’t match the gear, but I’ll be all right.”
Other players were more confident. Perhaps the best softball player of the bunch, quarterback Joe Flacco, did not participate as he continues to work his way back from torn ACL and MCL injuries last December. Flacco played baseball in high school and attempted to do so in college before he settled on football.
Williams, who played organized baseball through his sophomore year of high school, had high goals for himself: “Crank home runs, make some big throws, a big catch. That’s all I’m expecting.”
As it turned out, Williams did all of that. After finishing second to punter Sam Koch in the pregame home run derby, he crushed a three-run homer to straightaway center field to give the offense a 4-0 lead in the first inning. Then, he came in and made a diving catch in center field to rob nose tackle Brandon Williams of a base hit.
In doing so, Maxx Williams spoiled lofty hopes for Brandon Williams and the defense.
“All I do is hit ’em out of the park,” Brandon Williams said before the game. “That’s all I’m planning on doing. That’s all I’m gonna do. We’re gonna win — obviously, (defensive) team all day.”
Asked about his defensive skills, the 343-pound Williams laughed.
“I’m probably going to be out there in the middle, probably get a lawn chair, order some pizzas and just kick it,” he said. “I’m not going to be moving around too much. I’m just going to stick my hand out and see what happens.”
The players, who begin mandatory minicamp this week at their facility in Owings Mills, took the opportunity to compete in a more casual setting. When Webb hit a popup behind the plate to lead off the bottom of the first, he pushed rookie offensive lineman Alex Lewis out of the way to keep Lewis from catching it. Other players blocked the bases to keep opponents from touching them, and the teams populated the outfield with as many as six defenders.
Still, if you thought the professional athletes wouldn’t be competitive in even a low-key softball games, you would be mistaken.
“Defense needs to win,” Webb said before the game. “The offensive guys just seem to be able to hit better, catch better. We’re gonna see.”
This year, Webb managed to snag a couple of special teams players — koch and long snapper Morgan Cox — onto the defensive team in hopes of shifting the outcome. Cox pitched for the defensive team, and Koch hit a home run, as Webb guaranteed before the game that he would.
Koch’s solo shot came during an eight-run first inning for the defense, but the offense rallied with 10 in the fourth to conclude the scoring. Both teams will head back to work this week, but for Sunday, the offense emerged victorious on a rare afternoon when the score was an afterthought.