MLB.com Columnist

Alyson Footer

Laughter reigns at Legends/Celebrity game

Laughter reigns at Legends/Celebrity game

MIAMI -- It's perhaps the least competitive of the three games that will be played during All-Star Week -- but isn't that the point?

While the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game involves youngsters on the cusp of realizing their big league dreams and the All-Star Game presented by Mastercard spotlights the very best today's game has to offer, the MLB All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball Game is a nice contrast to the more scrutinized events presented this week.

The game lasts seven innings, features actors, singers and former ballplayers, and requires modest amounts of athleticism -- even from the legendary former players who have reputations to uphold.

"I think my expectation is to get out of this game in one piece," former Yankee and four-time World Series champion Bernie Williams laughed. "I think I finally got my swing back to where I cannot make a fool out of myself."

The celebrity softball game brought together plenty of familiar faces on All-Star Sunday.Alex Trautwig/MLB

Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, who in a couple of weeks will be inducted into the Hall of Fame, said he wanted to hit a home run, but, more importantly, he just didn't want his return to the field to be terribly anticlimactic.

"I hope I don't hit a ground ball," he said, flashing a grin. "I'll do my best."

Sunday's softball game included an Oscar-winning actor (Jamie Foxx), a performer nominated for a Tony Award (Christopher Jackson) and an eater who has won a trophy for ingesting a record 72 hot dogs (Joey Chestnut).

It also included two famous Olympians in Jessica Mendoza and Jennie Finch, a Wounded Warrior Softball Team player in Sgt. Leonard Anderson -- who received the biggest ovation of the night when he went deep early in the game -- and a slew of admired former Major League players.

Cespedes BBQ at Celebrity Game

"There's a lot of guys here that you watched when you were growing up," Foxx said. "They made those Sunday afternoons really special."

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Foxx has game
Foxx, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Ray Charles in "Ray," wasted little time making his presence known. Batting second behind Rickey Henderson, Foxx channeled his inner Babe Ruth and called his shot, pointing toward left field before stepping into the box to face Finch.

Then he dumped a base hit into left field.

Turns out, Foxx learned a few tricks from his dad as a youngster.

"My pops played softball," Foxx said. "They had a liquor-store softball team in south Dallas. He played second base. So he taught me how to throw a curveball, taught me softball, taught me baseball."

Who was Foxx most excited to meet at the celebrity softball gathering?

"Rickey Henderson," Foxx said. "Rickey, the greatest leadoff hitter. Watching him steal bases, and you see him now and he's still strong. It's amazing when you see these guys."

Foxx discusses Henderson

From stage to field
Jackson, who earned a Tony nomination for his performance as George Washington in the smash hit "Hamilton," offered a concise assessment of his baseball skills: "I have really high athletic aspirations."

But, noting he stands on a set 12 hours a day, he said: "I don't know how much is going to come out. There's always hope."

Jackson took the challenge of playing in the game in stride, realizing the experience centered more around having fun rather than putting on a dazzling athletic display. He sounded very much like a fan when asked about being among baseball greats.

"I'm getting dressed next to Bernie Williams, Fred Lynn," he said. "Come on. These are all guys that I idolized. It's a real honor to stand around and act like an athlete for a while."

Jackson on acting and baseball

A different kind of competition
Given how much hot dogs are part of baseball tradition, it was only fitting that the man who has eaten more steamin' weenies in one sitting than anyone in the world should somehow be a part of this week's All-Star festivities.

Chestnut, who on July 4 gobbled up 72 hot dogs to capture the Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest title for the 10th time, looked rested, recovered and maybe even a little hungry when he took batting practice with his celebrity mates before Sunday's game.

Asked how playing softball in front of 25,000 fans compares to eating competitively in front of hordes of onlookers, Chestnut admitted he was a tad nervous for his softball debut.

"I'm a shy guy naturally," Chestnut said. "I took me awhile to get comfortable eating in front of people. This [softball game] is a big stage with some of the best players in the world, in history. I'm nervous, but I'm having fun."

Chestnut on Celebrity Softball

The hot corner
Michael Cudlitz, whose resume includes "Southland," "Band of Brothers" and, perhaps most notably, "The Walking Dead," described himself as a "terrible" ballplayer and warned fans to have "no expectations" when he hit the field.

"No expectations and you'll be pleasantly surprised," Cudlitz said. "Underpromise, overdeliver."

Cudlitz said he was penciled in to play two positions: first base and ... third?

"Not much traffic there," he joked. "It should be interesting."

Given how many of today's ballplayers are fans of "The Walking Dead," it seemed fitting for someone from the show to be included in this week's All-Star festivities. Cudlitz agreed that there is definitely a zombie fascination among big leaguers.

"We have a lot of MLB, NFL guys," he said. "On the road, they watch a lot of TV. There's a lot of downtime in between. You have headphones on and this is the one of the shows they watch. It's kind of cool."

Cudlitz on Celebrity Softball

The Legends and Celebrity Softball Game will air Monday on ESPN following the T-Mobile Home Run Derby, which begins at 8 p.m. ET.

On Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET, tune in to the 2017 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard live on FOX, and during the game visit MLB.com to submit your choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet via the 2017 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote. The 88th All-Star Game, in Miami, will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB.com, MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.