MESA, Ariz. — Telling everyone "I'm a five-tool guy," Will Ferrell was off on his barnstorming tour Thursday through five Arizona spring training games.
Wearing No. 19, first for Oakland and then for visiting Seattle, the star of "Anchorman, The Legend of Ron Burgundy," ''Elf" and many other movies played shortstop for the Athletics in the top of the first inning, then second base for the Mariners in the top of the second. He was enthusiastic, but alas, no ball was hit to him.
As he left, he gave a fan in an elf costume a long hug, then was off with a police escort, lights flashing, for the trip to stop No. 2 in Tempe, where the Chicago Cubs faced the team he rooted for growing up, the Los Angeles Angels. The comedian planned to play for 10 teams at five spring training games, playing every position along the way. His police escorted caravan was to drive to his first three stops, then he is to take a helicopter from the Arizona Diamondbacks' spring home in Scottsdale to the Chicago White Sox's field in Glendale.
Before his odyssey began, he told a radio interviewer that he expected to raise $1 million to be used for college scholarships for cancer survivors. The entire blitz was being chronicled by HBO for an upcoming special. Memorabilia from his journey is to be sold at auction on MLB.com with proceeds going to Cancer for College and Stand Up to Cancer.
Ferrell had his usual (false) bravado on display.
In the A's clubhouse before the game, he told shortstop Marcus Semien, "I could catch fire today and you could be on a bus back to Triple-A."
In his interview on MLB radio, he said "I'm actually hoping that my acting career is over after today."
"I think it's pretty much the feeling out here that I'm going to land with one of these clubs," Ferrell said. "These teams need a clubhouse presence and my presence is a flabby 47-year-old guy that doesn't know how to play. But I have life experience and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done."
Ferrell arrived early at HoHoKam Park, spring training home of the A's, telling people as he entered that he was in "beast mode."
He took batting practice with the Athletics, actually hitting a couple up the middle. When he took the field at shortstop, the crowd cheered when he fielded a warmup grounder and threw it perfectly to first base.
"I never would have thought Will Ferrell would play second base behind me," Seattle pitcher Jordan Pries said. "Honestly, I didn't want anything to go that way, but I was just trying to pitch. Once the ball leaves my hand, I have no control. I didn't realize what a spectacle, a circus, it was going to be. You want to get your work in but you want to have fun, too."
This was just the latest, perhaps most ambitious, of Ferrell's forays into sports and injection of his character into the world at large.
In 2010, he pitched, albeit briefly, for the Triple-A Round Rock Express, wearing a fake mustache in the guise of "Rojo Johnson," a pitcher with a fiery temperament. He threw one pitch behind the Nashville batter. As he left the field, he ripped off the mustache and waved triumphantly to the crowd.
Two years later, he and fellow actor Zach Galifianakis invaded a Cubs game, throwing out the first pitch then hilariously butchering the introduction of the lineups.
They said Alfonso Soriano was from Scotland and pitcher Jeff Samardzija led the league with 450 strikeouts.
That same year, Ferrell introduced the Chicago Bulls lineup and said Luol Deng "collects birds and has a pet dolphin named Chachi."
And don't forget all those Dodge commercials in the omnipresent promotion of "Anchorman Two." Sales of Dodge trucks reportedly rose significantly afterward.
The rapid baseball journey also commemorated the time, 50 years ago, that Bert Campaneris played all nine positions in a game.
"I don't know why he played all five positions," Ferrell said in the radio interview. "I guess some of the other guys were sick."