George Brett will be back on the field on July 8 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, where he racked up most of his 3,154 hits for the Royals in a 21-year Hall of Fame career. Seeing No. 5 in the batter's box and probably playing third base would be worth the price of admission alone on All-Star Sunday.
But he has a lot of company. Jon Hamm of "Mad Men," David Cook and Haley Reinhart of "American Idol" fame, and past greats Ernie Banks, Andre Dawson, Rollie Fingers, Rickey Henderson, Ozzie Smith, Dave Winfield, Joe Carter, Mike Piazza, Bo Jackson and Mike Sweeney also will play in the 2012 Taco Bell All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game.
Major League Baseball announced the participants on Tuesday for the annual nightcap of Taco Bell All-Star Sunday, an always-entertaining event that follows the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. Brett will be All-Star Ambassador throughout All-Star Week, and just picturing him back in front of his home crowd makes it a must-see event on ESPN. The game is televised immediately after the following night's State Farm Home Run Derby.
"Modern Family" Emmy Award winner and Kansas City native Eric Stonestreet, Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel and University of Kansas men's basketball head coach Bill Self are on the participant list. So is Chord Overstreet from "Glee"; annual returnee James Denton of "Desperate Housewives" fame; U.S. national soccer team captain Carlos Bocanegra; actor and comedian Horatio Sanz; country music artist David Nail; reigning UFC light heavyweight champion Jon "Bones" Jones; and Paul Dimeo from "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."
Brett was 6-for-22 in his career against fellow Hall of Famer Fingers, and it will be a chance to perhaps see that pitching matchup again.
"For me, to be honest with you, I do this once a year -- swing a bat," Fingers said last year. "I play golf. I don't do this. It weighs a ton. It doesn't feel like my 2-iron. I'm older, and I hurt more. I can swing and I go, 'Owww, uhhhh, owwww.' So I have a good time with all my buddies, the legends -- that's old guys -- and then you get to see the talent, the celebrities, the actors and actresses. It's fun to see them, and some of them are pretty good."
Softball great Jennie Finch, typically a key figure in this game, will be back on the mound. One of the highlights is after the game, when she throws bonus home-run derby pitches to some of that softball game's best sluggers. Remember Tim Salmon in 2010 in Anaheim? Maybe she will toss some gopher balls to Jackson on July 8.
"It's such an honor and so much fun just to be surrounded by great guys, great women," said Finch. "It's a great event."
Henderson has hit four homers off Finch in the last two games combined, including three in 2010, and then a leadoff shot last year. Each year, his home-run trot grows slower. At this rate, he might walk around the bases in Kansas City, so stay tuned.
It will be a feel-good homecoming for Cook, the 2007 "American Idol" winner. He worked for the Royals in the Stadium Club before his music career took off, and once was a promising pitcher.
"It was an amazing organization just from top to bottom," Cook said of the Royals. "I got to meet some amazing people, including players and coaches. I have this great relationship with Mike Sweeney from when I worked there, so it's cool. I love that organization.
"Music's been in my blood for a long time, but I grew up playing sports. I was a baseball kid. Then, when physical limitations decided to present themselves, the guitar was there."
Don't be surprised if the subject of pine tar comes up during the game. Flash back to 1983, and the Pine Tar Incident involving Brett and the Royals against the Yankees in New York. A key member of that Yankees team was Winfield, who will be right there with Brett again.
Following the softball game, the skies above Kauffman Stadium will be lit by a spectacular fireworks show to cap off All-Star Sunday.