Semi-Pro: Will Ferrell’s Philanthropic Spring Training Stunt Goofy but Sort of Awesome

If you ever laughed or cringed at Ryan Dempster’s Harry Caray impersonation, you need to either credit or blame Will Ferrell. After all, Demp’s schtick was less a play on the Cubs broadcaster than it was the SNL funnyman’s take on Caray (video below).

Now, years later, the star of goofball comedies like Talladega Nights and Anchoman is back for another irreverent riff that involves the Cubs. In conjunction with MLB and HBO’s Funny or Die (which Ferrell founded with cohort Adam McKay), Ron Burgundy’s sire will be playing ten positions (plus umpiring) over the course of five games…in the same day.

Yes, Ferrell plans to travel to five different parks to participate in spring training contests in order to create a new FoD special while also raising money for cancer patients. All of the comedian’s game-worn gear from the circuitous Cactus League odyssey will be auctioned off with the proceeds going to Cancer for College.

If you have a moment, take some time to check out the above link to the foundation’s website and read a bit about Craig Pollard and his journey. I’m sitting here and looking out over a beautiful South Caribbean morning, but I found Craig’s story even more inspiring. I have to imagine this cause is one that is close to the hearts of Jon Lester and Anthony Rizzo, both of whom survived battles with cancer as young men.

Even if the Cubs’ first win of the spring may hadn’t laid to rest all the talk about the importance of exhibition records, news of Ferrell’s project should have stopped it short. Joe Maddon certainly wants to work out some kinks in the team’s fundamentals and get into a groove, but I’m reasonably sure even the coolest cat in the room isn’t worried about prepping for a 47-year-old Frank the Tank.

I’ll admit that when I first heard about this travelling circus, I thought it was just that: some idiotic stunt or publicity for an upcoming movie. But knowing the admirable intent of the barnstorming tour has me changing my tune. I had never heard of Cancer for College before today. Had you? So even before taking the field on Thursday (you can catch the full schedule below), Ferrell’s proselytizing has been successful to a degree. That’s actually pretty awesome.

And speaking of getting the word out, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has thrown his full support behind Ferrell’s tour:

“Spring Training affords an appropriate setting where our game can serve as the backdrop for an event that will benefit organizations that fight cancer. Will is a big fan of our game, and many of us in baseball – among our clubs, players and our millions of fans – are big fans of his. Major League Baseball is happy to take part in what will surely be a fun and memorable day for a great cause.”

The more I hear from and about baseball’s top dog, the more I like. He seems to be open to change and to helping baseball grow and he’s not taking himself or the game too seriously.

I’m not going to be able to watch either the Cubs game or the Dodgers/Padres game, both of which will air live on MLB Network, but I’m looking forward to seeing some of the highlights. My hope is that we get a little Frank Drebin action in the latter contest. If you’d like to follow along with the full slate of Ferrell’s antics, Yahoo has got you covered with a live blog.

• 3:05 p.m.: Seattle Mariners at Oakland Athletics (HoHoKam Stadium)
• 4:10 p.m.: Chicago Cubs at Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Tempe Diablo Stadium)*
• 5:10 p.m.: Cincinnati Reds at Arizona Diamondbacks (Salt River Fields at Talking Stick)
• 7:05 p.m.: San Francisco Giants at Chicago White Sox (Camelback Ranch)
• 9:15 p.m.: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres (Peoria Stadium)*

I know we can all get a little high-strung about this sport once in a while, but something like this is a nice reminder that baseball is, after all, still just a game. It should be fun and that’s exactly what Ferrell and MLB are making it. But, Will, if I could make one request? Leave Vince Vaughn out of it.

*Available live on MLB Network


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