Mark F. Gray, Special to the AFRO, mgray@afro.com

Leigh Bodden promised the Black team would win, but Santana Moss wasn’t having any of it. Moss delivered a three-run kickball home run in the bottom of the first inning, which proved to be the difference in the game as the white team won the inaugural Barry’s Game at Bowie Baysox Stadium.

“We’re keeping our mouth shut and will let our play do the talking,” Moss said. “We’ll see what happens at the end of the game.”

On a day where there were no losers, Bodden’s LBFoundation.org brought together local celebrities and former pro athletes by galvanizing the community to begin learning more about a silent killer amongst minorities.  However, thanks to Moss’s heroics the white team withstood a late inning comeback attempt to hold on for a 5-3 victory.  

Leigh Bodden’s LBFoundation.org and Lauryn’s Law teamed up at the Bowie Baysox Stadium for baseball and celebrity kickball games in honor of mental health and suicide awareness. (Courtesy Photo)

Despite the game, mental health awareness and suicide prevention were the focus of the Baltimore Orioles class AA affiliate Bowie Baysox in conjunction with Bodden’s Foundation and Lauryn’s Law. The charity organizations collaborated to play the game in honor of two people who tragically lost their lives due to their undiagnosed mental health issues. 

Linda Diaz and Bodden carry the pain of their respective losses daily, as both carry memories of loved ones who took their lives.  Diaz, who shared the day with her granddaughter, started the push for Lauryn’s Law after her daughter took her life after battling the effects of bullying that led to undiagnosed depression.  Her efforts led to a state law requiring in school counseling and intervention for students who are displaying those symptoms.

Bodden’s friend Barry, who also took his life, is to whom the game was dedicated.  Before the first “pitch” it was clear this was more than a celebrity good time. In addition to the passion for the competition there was a palpable sense of commitment to the cause that was conveyed by Bodden himself, as he addressed the fans who stayed and watched with an emotional appreciation to those in attendance.

“There is not a day that doesn’t go by where I don’t think about him,” Bodden said with his voice cracking as he tried to hold back tears. “Hopefully, you’ve been able to speak with the representatives of the organizations that can help you be there for someone who may not realize the help they need and you can be there to support them.”

The crowd who attended the baseball game was able to attend the kickball game afterward for the price of the game ticket.  During the game itself, various mental health organizations were stationed throughout the concourse distributing information and sharing basic knowledge about the warning signs of what could lead to suicidal behavior.

“It’s so important to have an opportunity to share this kind of information with the public,” Diaz said.  “When someone like Leigh adds his name too and genuinely cares because he knows the pain that friends and families go through, it only helps create greater awareness in the community.”

Approximately 1,000 fans stayed after the Baysox Eastern League 10-4 victory over the Portland Sea Dogs for the kickball game. During the long afternoon, they also had an opportunity to receive information from a series of mental health organizations who lined the concourse with a message of intervention and therapy. The celebrities who attended also recognize the role they play in pushing the message.

“It’s something that we can now have open conversations when we’re on the air,” said Sunni [in the City] from WPGC-FM. “Artists like Wale use their twitter accounts to talk about his therapist all the time. It’s a disease that’s out of the closet right now and people are beginning to realize they don’t have to feel ashamed or embarrassed to talk about mental health issues anymore.”