MLB All-Star Game: Celebrities and Legends Kick Off Festivities
|Former Diamondbacks player Luis Gonzalez tipped his hat to the receptive crowd at Chase Field as he was introduced during the Celebrities & Legends Softball Game during All-Star weekend.|
The All-Star festivities officially kicked off Saturday, bringing a swarm of fans, media, and celebrities to Phoenix.
This year also happens to mark the 10-year anniversary of the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks' World Series win over the New York Yankees, which makes for great timing for the mid-summer classic to be hosted in Phoenix.
Aside from the championship being the first for the D-backs, it also was the first for any professional sports team in the state of Arizona. Two key players from that series -- former D-backs first baseman Mark Grace, who started off that pivotal ninth inning of Game 7 with a hit, and outfielder Gonzalez, who drove in the winning run on what was arguably the biggest moment of his career -- both played in the 2011 Taco Bell All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game (to a very receptive crowd at Chase Field).
What really put the weekend in motion was the FanFest at the Convention Center. And although neither Grace nor Gonzalez attended batting practice held there before the game, plenty more celebrities and baseball legends did swing by, much to the fans' delight.
|Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald taking batting practice at FanFest at the Convention Center before the All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game.|
Two celebrities who opted for extra batting practice were Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and former American Idol winner Jordan Sparks.
Fitzgerald doesn't often pick up a baseball bat in the offseason, but this summer was an exception.
"I took batting practice about a month and a half ago with the D-backs and kind of embarrassed myself out there, so I've been in the batting cages since I knew I was playing this [Celebrities & Legends Game] to get some swings and try to get myself a little better," Fitzgerald said. "I can't embarrass myself again."
Fitzgerald grew up watching the Minnesota Twins and was a "big Kirby Puckett fan." So could baseball be a plan B in case the NFL lockout doesn't get resolved?
"No no, this would be way, way down the list of things I would try to do," Fitzgerald says. "After taking batting practice, I know this is not something that I can do. You got to be able to do this for a long period of time and take a lot of practice to get good at this."
Sparks is no stranger to football or baseball.
"My dad played football, so I grew up watching that a lot," says Sparks of her dad, former New York Giants cornerback Phillippi Sparks. "But then I remember...keeping track of [the Diamondbacks]. Then they went to the World Series, and Luis Gonzalez is definitely somebody that I like to follow. Curt Schilling, Randy Johnson -- all of them."
|Former American Idol winner Jordan Sparks and actor Chris Pratt let loose during the All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game at Chase Field.|
But baseball is not so much a regular part of Sparks' hectic life as a musician. Because of her chaotic schedule with touring, this was Sparks' first batting practice before the game.
"I'm really excited to have [former Olympic softball player] Jennie Finch on my team. She's amazing, she plays, and she is just beautiful and so sweet," says Sparks. "I'm excited just to play. It's so much fun for us to be able to come out here and get to do something for the fans and it's going to be fun for us as well as them. So I'm just excited to be a part of it. And I'm playing against [singer] Nick Jonas, so we've got a little thing going on, so we'll see how that goes."
The All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game will air tonight following the Home Run Derby.