Corey LaJoie’s inaugural Kickball Klassic charity tournament will bring top NASCAR drivers to Kannapolis
Published 12:00 am Friday, October 1, 2021
KANNAPOLIS — An all-star list of athletes assembled by NASCAR driver Corey LaJoie will meet in downtown Kannapolis next week to compete for kickball glory and raise money for a couple of good causes.
LaJoie, a Kannapolis native and graduate of Northwest Cabarrus High School, will host the inaugural Corey LaJoie Kickball Klassic at Atrium Health Ballpark on Oct. 6 from noon to 10 p.m. The event is being held as a fundraiser to benefit the Kannapolis YMCA and Samaritan’s Feet.
The list of celebrity guests includes top-tier NASCAR drivers Austin Dillon, Ryan Blaney, Kurt and Kyle Busch, Bubba Wallace, Michael McDowell, Matt DiBenedetto, Daniel Suarez and Joey Logano. Former NBA player and UNC basketball star Marvin Williams and college softball legend Lauren Haeger will be competing as well.
“It’s definitely going to be a fun night and it came together much better than I anticipated it,” LaJoie said. “It really means a lot that a lot of my other competitors are taking time out of their day to come support a good cause and have a little bit of fun with us.”
The tournament, sponsored by Built Bar, starts at noon when 16 teams begin their quest for the title. After an afternoon of pool play, the top four teams will advance to the semifinals and the winners to the title game. Three kickball fields will be set up in the outfield at Atrium Health Ballpark and five will be located in the Kannapolis horseshoe.
LaJoie isn’t satisfied with just hosting the tournament — he wants his team to win.
“My team is going to be pretty stacked, I’m not going to lie,” LaJoie said. “I’m going for gold in the first ever Kickball Klassic.”
Once a tournament champion is crowned, the celebrities will face off in a “just-for-fun” kickball contest of their own and will hold an autograph session for fans. There will also be a Family Fun Zone sponsored by GoPro Motorplex featuring bouncy houses and other kid-friendly activities.
The entertainment doesn’t stop once the kickball concludes. There will also be live musical performances from country music bands The Dryes and Pryor & Lee.
Tickets for the tournament are $10 and can be purchased in advance or from the box office on the day of the event. A ticket provides access to the kickball games, autograph session with celebrity guests and the concert.
“We wanted to keep this as friendly as possible in regards to people’s ability to participate,” said Philip Belfield, Kannapolis YMCA branch executive and tournament director. “It’s strictly $10 and that gets you in for the day for everything.”
All of the proceeds from the event will benefit the Kannapolis YMCA or Samaritan’s Feet, a nonprofit that provides shoes to impoverished children across the globe.
The money generated by the tournament, Belfield said, will help the Kannapolis YMCA provide services to its members. The Kannapolis YMCA, located at 101 YMCA Drive, celebrated its 110th anniversary in 2018 and is a well-established community hub. When Cannon Mills was at its peak, the branch was one of the largest in the country. It was also one of the first to introduce a women’s and girl’s department. Last year, the Kannapolis YMCA provided over $150,000 in financial assistance to families to ensure that everyone can take advantage of the services it offers.
LaJoie’s father, former NASCAR driver Randy LaJoie, joined the board of the Kannapolis YMCA earlier this year. That’s when LaJoie and the YMCA teamed up to start planning the tournament, which he was originally preparing to host in early 2020 before the pandemic dashed those plans.
LaJoie personally recruited his fellow NASCAR drivers to participate in the event, oftentimes having only to send them a quick text to get their commitment. Belfield said LaJoie has been involved with every part of the planning process.
“It’s not just his name on the flyer,” Belfield said. “He has been extremely hands-on and a participant and a leader in our event planning. He has really done a lot of work in regards to finding the teams, finding the sponsors.”
The timing worked out for many of the drivers because the tournament takes place just a few days before the Bank of America Roval 400 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“We’re looking forward to bringing NASCAR fans to the city of Kannapolis so they can take advantage of all the great stuff happening in Kannapolis,” Belfield said.
LaJoie, who grew up just a few minutes from where Atrium Health Ballpark is located, said he is excited to host the event in his hometown.
“It’s a little bit surreal to see it all coming together and for it to be happening next week,” LaJoie said. “I’m a little bit anxious about it, but we’ve got a lot behind it keeping everything going smoothly. It means a lot to gain connections in the community and help out the YMCA as well.”
The plan is for the tournament to become a yearly tradition. LaJoie said he hopes to recruit even more celebrity athletes from different sports to participate in the second annual Kickball Klassic next year.
“It should be bigger and better every year,” LaJoie said.