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Eaton is up to bat for 4th celebrity softball game

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For three years, former Utah Jazz center Mark Eaton has held a celebrity softball game.

"It's based on the `Rock 'n' Jock' games on MTV," Eaton said. "We wanted to make a charity event that was more than a dinner or a gathering."That "we" includes board members of Mark Eaton's Standing Tall for Youth Foundation, a program that enhances the lives of at-risk youth by introducing them to sports and other outdoor activities outside of their normal environment.

The fourth celebrity softball game will take place at Franklin Quest Field Friday, June 26, beginning at 6 p.m. Tickets are available for $6 at Franklin Quest Field. For more information call 860-1328.

The idea for the softball game was put into motion by Terry Har-ward, said Eaton.

"We wanted to make the event fun for everyone - the celebrities and the people who come to participate in workshops," Eaton said. "We also wanted to make it fun for the people who come to see the game."

Celebrities this year include Gov. Mike Leavitt, who will toss out the first ball; Steve Garvey and Latin jam band Salsa Brava, which will play after the game.

Eaton said that since the first game, he has seen the program grow in different ways. "First off, we've become well-known with the celebrities. The ones who attend and give workshops to these kids before the game are all professional athletes that live in Utah. Also, we've been seeing a lot of familiar faces in the stands. Families return year after year to have fun."

Eaton also mentioned that this year, more than 4,000 free tickets would be given out to charity so kids who can't afford it will get a chance to attend the event. That's over and above money raised by the game.

"Last year we raised about $100,000," said Eaton. "We might be a little shy of that this year, but nearly all of the money goes back into the Standing Tall program."

The event sends 150 kids to the Mark Eaton Live Enhancement Basket-ball camp, while another 75 kids spend a week in the Uinta Mountains with the University of Utah EXCLS program. About 60 kids attend the Norwegian Schools programs in Park City where they participate in rock climbing and river rafting.

"It's rewarding to see the faces of these kids as they do all these things," Eaton said. "That's what keeps us going."