-- Perhaps it was no surprise, given how the A’s offseason went, that after just one inning at shortstop in his Cactus League debut, Will Ferrell was told by general manager Billy Beane that he had been traded.
Still, by multiple accounts, Ferrell apparently did not take the news well.
"(Ferrell asked), ‘What did I do wrong?’" A’s manager Bob Melvin said. "I told him, ‘Well, you’re out of position a little bit.’ He said, ‘Well, I like to be creative out there.’"
Ferrell’s cameo in an A’s uniform Thursday brought no ground balls his way but a good amount of levity to the day’s events at Hohokam Stadium. The actor spent the day on a quest to play all nine positions for 10 different teams across the Cactus League, as part of a project between MLB and HBO for an upcoming televised special, and he kicked things off with the A’s.
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That meant Ferrell spent most of Thursday morning roaming the A’s spring facility with a small horde of cameras in tow. Ferrell got to the stadium shortly after 8 a.m., his arrival announced by a production crew that filed into the A’s clubhouse and called for players to act natural when Ferrell appeared (part of the instruction, before one of the country’s best-known comedy actors walked in, was: "Don’t laugh.")
Ferrell chatted briefly with a few teammates, changed into a uniform bearing No. 19 -- in honor of former A’s shortstop Bert Campaneris, who also played all nine positions in one game in 1965 -- and joined the A’s for their morning workout. That workout commenced with a yoga session, of which catcher Josh Phegley said Ferrell "wasn’t a fan."
Ferrell left the stretching line early, but did ask A’s players on his way out if he could get them anything: "Breakfast burrito? Red Bull?"
Left-hander Scott Kazmir had the distinction of being on the mound when Ferrell jogged out to shortstop in the first inning, and said having Ferrell playing behind him was "tough -- pretty much all I wanted to do was turn around and see what he was doing back there."
Kazmir couldn’t see Ferrell. But he said he did hear him, "pretty much every pitch."
"Mostly pep talk," Kazmir said. "I threw a couple balls and I heard him behind me, chirping, making sure I was getting back on track."
Kazmir issued two walks in the inning, but escaped the jam with two strikeouts and a fielder’s choice hit to third baseman Brett Lawrie. So Ferrell wasn’t tested in the field, though he was very involved in relaying the number of outs to the A’s outfielders and catching Phegley’s warm-up throw to second before the inning.
"I tried to ease up a little, and it actually came out of my hand a lot harder than I wanted it to," Phegley said of the throw, which Ferrell juggled a little. "He was able to hang in there."
Ferrell appeared to acquit himself well in batting practice before the game, with Phegley saying: "He could swing it. It wasn’t his first time on the field, you could tell."
Ferrell also played a little catch with Campaneris, who later recalled the Sept. 8, 1965, game in which he played all nine positions for the Kansas City Athletics. Campaneris played catcher last, and recalled he actually had to leave the game when the Angels’ Ed Kirkpatrick barreled into him at home plate trying to score.
Campaneris said he held onto the ball for the out, but the hit dislocated his shoulder. He said then-A’s owner Charlie Finley had an insurance policy for $3 million on him, but Finley didn’t collect on it because the injury didn’t end Campaneris’ career.
Campaneris said he had a good conversation with Ferrell, and he liked Ferrell’s throwing form. "He’s a funny guy," Campaneris said. "I feel comfortable talking (to him)."
Chemistry notwithstanding, Ferrell’s time in an A’s uniform was short-lived. Following the top of the first, the A’s told Ferrell he’d been "traded." He left the dugout, slapping hands with the A’s along the railing -- and jogged over to the visiting dugout, where he donned a Seattle Mariners uniform. Ferrell played second base for Seattle in the second inning, but had no grounders there, either.
MLB said in a release that Ferrell’s project was dedicated in part to helping organizations fighting cancer, with funds raised through sales of Ferrell’s game-worn memorabilia and his HBO special going to charities including Cancer for College and Stand Up to Cancer. Ferrell’s special is supposed to air on HBO later this year.
"It was pretty cool for everybody," Melvin said. "Obviously you could see what was going on in the dugout, wherever he went, everybody’s eyes were."
Though the stunt overshadowed his own spring debut to an extent, Kazmir said it was "almost the highlight of my career, to have that guy over there and interact with him … He was awesome. He was probably ready to get out on the field more than I was."
The A’s, by the way, won the game in walk-off fashion, 4-3, rallying from two runs down in the bottom of the ninth, by which point the day’s guest of honor was long gone.
"Looks like it took us ’til the last inning," Melvin said, "to get over trading Will Ferrell."