'Ferrell Takes the Field' premieres tonight at Petco
Actor expected to be in attendance in San Diego
When Ron Burgundy burst onto the scene as America's most beloved fictional news anchor, a love affair formed between the somewhat inappropriate, mustachioed protagonist and one of the most beautiful cities in America.
So it should come as no surprise that the actor who made Burgundy kind of a big deal in San Diego more than a decade ago would premiere his first baseball movie in a ballpark located in the very city that he implored to "stay classy" in the cult classic "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy."
Over time, Will Ferrell and San Diego have been warmly tied together in pop culture. Today, they'll be together again, geographically, when Ferrell visits Petco Park for the premiere of his Spring Training adventure, "Ferrell Takes the Field."
The movie will be shown at Petco Park following the Padres-Dodgers game, which begins at 5:40 p.m. PT.
A quick refresher: Ferrell put in a 14-hour day last March in Arizona, visiting five Spring Training venues at a dizzying pace, playing 10 positions for 10 teams. The cameras rolled -- dozens upon dozens of cameras, as this was a joint venture between HBO, Funny or Die and Major League Baseball -- while Ferrell suited up in 10 Major League uniforms.
He bantered with players and managers and provided plenty of comic relief during a cluster of Cactus League games that would otherwise be considered, for the most part, uneventful.
"I just remember how funny he was in general," said D-backs pitcher Josh Collmenter, who shared a Churro Dog with Ferrell that day. "Some people just have that way about them, with the tone, the sarcasm, the way they can deliver stuff with a straight face, and he was like that in real life. Whether it was seeing him in the clubhouse, walking down the tunnel, interacting with the fans or players, it was just the same hilarity you're used to seeing in his movies."
Ferrell was, at the time, 47 years old and, while in pretty decent shape for a man his age, was not exactly in midseason Major League form. Still, he played his positions enthusiastically and was able to maintain his focus at the plate, even when Angels skipper Mike Scioscia called for the extreme shift to the right side of the infield when he was batting. (Ferrell, we should note, is a righty.)
His pitching stint was a bit more challenging, but, with the help of Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes, Ferrell made it through that part with all of his body parts still attached and functioning properly.
"He told me he had a special pitch from Japan, a slurge," Barnes recalled. "The sign for it was five-five. For sure he wanted me to call that pitch. His first warm-up went to the backstop. But the first pitch to the hitter was a strike. That surprised me. I didn't think he'd be anywhere near the plate after that warmup pitch."
"Ferrell Takes the Field" will air on HBO on Sept. 12 at 10 p.m. ET. Ferrell is scheduled to be in attendance at the sneak peek at Petco today, and he will address the crowd.
Presumably, a few Padres players will stick around to watch the premiere, too.
"It was pretty crazy to see Will Ferrell on a baseball field," said pitcher Nick Vincent. "I can only imagine how tired he was after that day of just flying around and how his body felt...he was probably in pretty bad shape the next day. But it was a good laugh and a fun little 45 minutes. It's pretty cool he was there."
Ferrell has made a living out of being hilariously outrageous, but he's also extremely relatable because of his down-to-earth aura and everyman appearance. That made him a perfect lead man for a day of mingling with Major League ballplayers who, for the most part, grew up watching his movies.
And at the end of the day -- a very, very long day -- the entire venture was a charitable effort. Ferrell waived every dollar of appearance fees he would normally receive and sent them to two causes -- MLB partner Stand Up To Cancer, and Cancer for College, a charity formed by his good friend (and USC fraternity brother) Craig Pollard, a cancer survivor and double amputee who started the fund two decades ago to send cancer patients to college.
Ferrell's Spring Training venture raised nearly as much in one day as Cancer For College raised in a decade.
Star power can go a long way -- a lot farther than, say, Ferrell's hits against Major League pitching. Under those terms, everyone wins.