GLENDALE, Ariz. — Will Ferrell had a pretty nice little Thursday planned. He was going to go to the White Sox dugout, and yeah, get an at-bat, maybe eat some seeds, stuff like that. Then he would move to the Giants dugout and maybe catch a bit. He didn’t know if he would have enough time — and he almost didn’t.
Ferrell’s bid to play nine positions for 10 teams in five games nearly went off the rails when his production crew got stuck in rush hour traffic between Scottsdale and Glendale, but ultimately Ferrell and MLB managed to get him in both White Sox and Giants uniforms. All it took was a little patience and a last-second trade.
Ferrell was supposed to arrive in Glendale for the fifth inning Thursday, but his helicopter landed in center field at Camelback Ranch before the top of the ninth. In the bottom of the inning, he got an at-bat against Jean Machi. Ferrell struck out, was traded to the Giants, and came back out in orange and black to catch an intentional walk from Machi.
The act was part of a joint production by MLB, Funny of Die and HBO that is dedicated to the fight against cancer. Ferrell’s day is being chronicled for an HBO special that will air later this year.
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“Guys understand that this is good for baseball,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Will is so popular and it was for a great cause. Guys were looking forward to seeing him, and they had fun today. You raise a million dollars for cancer survivors, we’ll wait a half hour for that.”
Machi needed a quick history lesson before he could get in on the fun. The right-hander is fighting for a roster spot, but as he was warming up in the bullpen, catcher Guillermo Quiroz explained what he was in for.
Machi threw all fastballs to Ferrell — at 92-93 mph, no less — but fell behind 2-0. He painted the corner with a fastball and then Ferrell swung through another one.
“He took the first hack and missed by a mile,” Quiroz said. “I said, ‘Hey, dude, get ready because the next one is coming in harder.'”
Ferrell was ready. Kind of. He took a big cut at the next pitch and managed to make enough contact that it dribbled harmlessly toward the first-base dugout. Machi then blew a 2-2 fastball past Ferrell, who was immediately “traded” to the Giants. After another delay so Ferrell could get catchers gear on, he went out and called for an intentional walk.
Bochy removed Ferrell after the free pass, with the actor feigning anger.
“It was a lot of fun,” Bochy said. “It’s a tough thing to travel like he did and try to go park to park.”
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Ferrell’s busy day started in Mesa, where he played for the A’s and Mariners in a noon game to kick off his attempt to play nine positions in one day. He also played for the Cubs, Angels, Reds and Diamondbacks before arriving at Camelback Ranch at around 6:50 p.m. Ferrell was supposed to catch part of the fifth inning for the Giants, but he was running behind and the Giants-White Sox game was moving along quickly.
Gary Brown cleared center field before the bottom of the eighth and cameramen lined up, but it was a false alarm. The players cleared the field again a half-inning later, and, as Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” blasted over the Camelback Ranch speakers, Ferrell’s helicopter landed in center. Ferrell jogged out in a White Sox jersey, beginning the fourth leg of his long journey.
After that, everything escalated pretty quickly.