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MLB.com Columnist

Alyson Footer

Stars of all kinds take part in softball clash

Taco Bell Legends & Celebrity game blends baseball and Hollywood together

Stars of all kinds take part in softball clash

MINNEAPOLIS -- Ozzie Smith singles and Nelly drives him in with a home run over the left-field wall. Mike Piazza homers, and just like that, the National League is absolutely crushing a possibly overmatched Jack Morris.

What is this, some warped version of bizarro fantasy baseball?

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Nah, it's the Taco Bell Legends & Celebrity softball game, where famous people from the sports world clash with the best Major Leaguers from yesteryear for a harmless exhibition game. It's light, fun and the complete opposite from ultra-competitive, and it never disappoints.

Local fans flock to the ballpark every year on Taco Bell All-Star Sunday, first to take in the Futures Game and then the celebrity softball game. The first game showcases the top prospects from every Major League team, an adrenaline-filled nine inning matchup that foreshadows what's coming to the bigs in the next couple of years.

The second game is, well, the complete opposite. It involves very little strategy but offers a perfect setting for star-gazing, if that's your thing. Judging from the 35,000 or so fans in the stands, this is most definitely a thing.

Watch what happens:
Wives were well-represented in the Legends and Celebrity softball game -- both desperate and real. First, there's James Denton, a regular participant in this event every year. You may remember him as Mike the plumber on the hit series "Desperate Housewives." He's also a huge baseball fan and has lived in Minnesota for a couple of years (his wife is from there). And, he never gets tired of rubbing shoulders with sports stars.

"There are a couple of fringe benefits," Denton said. "I got an autograph baseball from [Vikings running back] Adrian Peterson for my wife. And I get to share a locker with him. Sharing a locker with A.P. is pretty humbling when you're 50. That guy is a monster. But what a nice guy."

Then there's Andy Cohen, host of the wildly popular "Watch What Happens Live" and head honcho of the Bravo series "Real Housewives." Cohen grew up in St. Louis, is a mega Cardinals fan and was positively giddy that his locker was next to Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.

"I was there when the Cardinals won in '82, and he's the Wizard of Oz, and my locker's next to his," Cohen gushed. "I took a picture of it. You're never going to see these two jerseys next to each other. That's hilarious."

While fretting that his baseball pants were a bit too baggy for his liking, Cohen expressed some nerves before taking the field for the National League team.

He was having some flashbacks to the game that ended his six-year Little League career, which also happened to be the last time he played baseball -- until Sunday.

"I struck out when we had a chance to score," Cohen recalled. "I lost the game. So, in truth, I'm terrified about today."

To temper any intimidating feelings he may have while sizing up his competition, Cohen did a reality check and used it as a confidence-booster.

"I'm looking at these guys and saying, 'You know, half of them couldn't host a talk show,'" he reasoned. "So, maybe it's OK. Maybe we're all doing what we're meant to be doing."

Food for thought:
Considering he hosted a show called "Bizarre Foods," it's probably safe to assume Andrew Zimmern is approached a lot to talk about, well, bizarre foods.

Yes, that topic did come up when the celebrities and legends met for the first time prior to Sunday's big game, but Zimmern, a star of the Travel Channel who has a culinary presence at Target Field, has an appropriate answer.

In short: you want to talk bizarre foods? Ever ask what they put in hot dogs?

Well…he does have a point.

"In terms of bizarre foods -- is there a worse thing ever created than the American hot dog?" he said with a chuckle. "There's laws in our country that ... allow them not to tell the American public what's in it. Just remember that. Goat burgers on me."

Zimmern grew up in New York, and being able to talk ball with Dwight Gooden on Sunday -- which he did, extensively -- was something he won't soon forget.

"I saw almost every game Dwight Gooden played in as a New York Met," Zimmern said. "To sit there and talk about games that he remembers and I remember, like the Gary Carter three-home run game at Shea in '86 ... pinch me. Did that really happen? It did. It really happened."

Blonde ambition:
January Jones is best known for her role as Betty Draper on the television series "Mad Men." But did you also know she's from around here, having been raised in Brookings, S.D.?

Jones has fond memories of attending Twins games with her dad and grandfather as a kid, and playing in the celeb game presented a good opportunity for her to reciprocate.

"I brought my father and grandfather," Jones said. "I wanted it to be something really special that we got to do together. I was brought to Twins games as a kid growing up. My dad and grandfather are big baseball fans. It's very special to me to be able to share this experience with them. And, I hope I don't embarrass them."

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.

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