MESA —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 for every team, the star of “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” ''Elf” and many other movies played shortstop for the Oakland Athletics, second base for the Seattle Mariners, center field for the Los Angeles Angels and first base for the Chicago Cubs.
As a surprise, he pinch hit, rather unsuccessfully, for the Cubs and spent a little time as their third base coach, holding up signs, one of which said, “Remember These Games Don't Count.”
Then it was off to Scottsdale, for the Cincinnati Reds vs. the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The comedian planned to play for 10 teams in five spring training games, playing every position along the way. His police escorted caravan was to drive to his first three stops, then he was to take a helicopter from the Diamondbacks' spring home in Scottsdale to the Chicago White Sox's field in Glendale.
And it was all for a good cause, he said.
Before his odyssey began, Ferrell told a radio interviewer that he expected to raise $1 million to be used for college scholarships for cancer survivors. The entire tour 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.”
Oakland scored three runs in the ninth inning to beat Seattle 4-3, leading A's manager Bob Melvin to say, 'It looked like it took us until that last inning to get over the fact that we traded Will Ferrell.”
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.”
Alas, he never touched the ball during play for the A's and Mariners.
In Tempe for the Cubs-Angels, he replaced Mike Trout in center field, taking Trout's hat and glove. He cleanly fielded a single and threw it to the infield and the crowd roared. He wasn't so successful at the plate for the Cubs, striking out on three pitches. He played for only one out at first, leaving after a batter flew out to left.
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.”
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.”