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01/26/08 8:02 PM ET
Celebrity Soccer Challenge scores big
Event hosted by Garciaparra, Hamm draws stars
By Ted Brock / Special to MLB.com
CARSON, Calif. -- Want to guess who scored the first goal in Saturday's Celebrity Soccer Challenge at the Home Depot Center, hosted by soccer icon Mia Hamm and her husband, Dodgers first baseman Nomar Garciaparra?
One hint: It wasn't Nomar.
Hamm, a World Cup and Olympic champion and soccer's all-time scorer, male or female, sent a 10-footer into the net in the second minute of play, and her team, F.C. Mia, played her husband's team, Nomar United, to a 12-12 tie.
The final score was the last thing on the minds of the 10,000 who showed up under brilliant sunshine -- the week's only sunny day amid a near-constant drenching in Southern California.
What mattered far more was the inspiration for the event -- a benefit for Children's Hospital Los Angeles and the Mia Hamm Foundation.
Hamm established the latter organization in 1997 after her brother Garrett died of aplastic anemia, a bone marrow disease.
During a halftime ceremony, Hamm appealed to the crowd to take part in the National Bone Marrow Registry, which coordinates marrow donations.
Referring to the thousands of sufferers in need of such transplants, Hamm said, "You could be that donor. That's how important this is. You could save a life today."
With his Nomar United team trailing, 5-2, after the first quarter, skateboard legend Tony Hawk was asked in a message-board interview what Garciaparra had said in his pregame speech.
"Something crazy," said Hawk, who before game time had looked down at his shinguards and said, "I'll need these, because my shins are totally shredded from skating."
Afterward, Garciaparra was more than upbeat.
"It was awesome," Garciaparra said. "It went so well. I can't thank these people enough for coming out. We'd like it to be an annual thing, and this turnout helps so much."
Other celebrities taking part included Oscar-nominated actress Elisabeth Shue and "Saturday Night Live" actors Seth Meyers and Andy Samberg.
Representing the Dodgers were vice president Kim Ng and general manager Ned Colletti, both members of Nomar United for the day.
It was Ng's first time on the pitch in a long time. How long?
"Since I played in junior high school in New York," she said.
Former Dodgers catcher Mike Lieberthal took the field for F.C. Mia, but his big moment came before the game.
"Elisabeth Shue has a locker right next to me," Lieberthal said. "I'm really excited, because I loved her in 'Sideout.' "
As for his pregame expectations, the veteran Major Leaguer said, "I've never played soccer in my life. If I had played, maybe I'd have been a goalie ... with my plate-blocking skills."
Colletti put his footwork on display early in the first quarter, rolling on the turf after trying to corral a ball near the sideline at midfield. He bounced up and played on, saving most of his moves for player acquisition, no doubt.
Hamm brought out her former national team colleagues Kristine Lilly, Julie Foudy, Joy Fawcett and Tisha Venturini Hoch.
Among the men's soccer greats taking part were Landon Donovan, Chris Albright and former national team member Alexi Lalas.
Colletti, who played soccer at Northern Illinois University, said he got into the game as a child "when nobody was playing and I was on the only team in town, before the time when there were leagues and leagues.
"At my age it's a great feeling to be out here with some of the greats in the game, plus to help people out, for a great cause.
"But I feel it."