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Seahawks kicker will defend Ping-Pong title to help homeless

Seahawks kicker Steven Hauscha was out to defend his title and raise money for homeless families in his second annual celebrity pingpong tournament Monday evening at CenturyLink Field (photo courtesy
LISTEN: Seahawks Steven Haushka battles homelessness with ping pong

While the Seahawks face a tough rematch against the rival Carolina Panthers, another one looms large Monday involving many of the Hawks and a slew of challengers looking to unseat them. Only the ball is much smaller.

The competition can be fierce, gladiators squaring off — a 9-foot table and low slung net the only thing separating them. When Seahawks Center Justin Britt faces kicker Steven Hauschka, it’s serious business.

“It’s kind of a battle of the rams — not the football team but the animal,” Britt said as we visited in the Seahawks locker room. “We’re just head butting each other … it’s tough competition.”

Related: Big companies in Seattle are investing in homelessness

That competition moves from the locker room to CenturyLink Field Monday night, as Hauschka hosts his second annual celebrity Ping-Pong tournament.

The event is a benefit for Mary’s Place — a Seattle shelter for women and children — and its No Child Sleeps Outside campaign.

“I think everyone can agree that every human deserves a warm place to sleep, especially during the winter here in Seattle, so that’s what it’s really about,” Hauschka said.

But Hauschka is taking the Ping-Pong almost as serious as helping the homeless. He’s far and away the best of the Seahawks when it comes to beating that little white ball.

“It’s something I fell in love with as a kid,” Hauschka said. “I used to play with my brother when we’d be on vacation in the summer and kind of continued it off and on. But it’s a great sport and you can play it your whole life.”

He took the title at his inaugural tournament last year, narrowly edging University of Washington student and longtime Seattle-area Ping-Pong champion Johnny Ochsner — the pride of O’Dea High School.

Little does Hauschka know Johnny pulled some punches.

“I made it fun for the fans,” Ochsner said. “I understood it was a charity event and so I orchestrated it all, I made it close. I made it fun. And the last two points were for deuce and I tried my hardest and he actually won both of them. I missed a shot and he made a shot. It was pretty good.”

“I don’t think I’m going to be able to do that this year,” Hauschka laughed. “There’s going to be a lot of good competition there. People have been telling me for a while they’re coming out.”

That includes Huskies head coach Chris Peterson, a number of other Seahawks, and some other surprise celebrities.

While it’s for a great cause, Hauschka isn’t taking the defense of his title lightly. He’s even taking a few lessons with a former member of the Chinese national team, who now lives in Bellevue.

“I’m trying to get ready because there’s no one else to hit with,” Hauschka said.

At least not in the Seahawks locker room, where he often plays his teammates left handed to keep things competitive.

Related: Seahawks facing Panthers for 8th time since 2010 (and why that is)

But there’s just one problem for Hauschka – that former Chinese national team player also happens to be Johnny’s coach as well. And Johnny’s got revenge on his mind.

“My friends, my family, you know, they’re trash talking about how this kicker beat me at Ping-Pong … I got that for the last 12 months so I’m ready to get the crown and have the bragging rights,” Oschner said.

Anyone can battle Hauschka for those bragging rights.

The tournament is open to all comers and spectators alike.

You can challenge a celebrity to an exhibition match for $100 a game, or play doubles against a celebrity team for $150.

Twelve players will have a chance to battle Hauschka and the other serious slingers in an elite, single elimination tournament for $1,200.

Even if you don’t want to play, tickets for the event are available to watch the battle for Ping-Pong primacy. The event runs from 5:30-9 p.m at the CenturyLink Field West Club.

Related: Seattle adds three homeless encampments

All fun aside, more than 550 families sleep outside every night in King County, many single moms with kids. Hauschka hopes the fundraiser can go a long way in helping Mary’s Place raise over $500,000 to open a crisis-response winter night shelter.

“Everyone deserves a chance to sleep inside, especially during the winter and especially the women and the children,” Hauschka said. “I think a lot of people are realizing how important an organization like Mary’s Place is in the community.”

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