North Stars: Dispatches from All-Star Week, Part Two “The Running of Fat Joe”

Before we’re off and running, if you somehow ended up here and you’re unsure of how that happened or what I’m talking about, go on back to PART ONE. It’ has lots of pictures!

After the highs (BASE STEALING RACE) and terrifying lows (sad Rollie Fingers sitting at a sad table by himself with a big sad scowl on his face) of Fan Fest, the second stretch of the All Star festivities had begun: the Futures Game, a display of the best prospects and up and comers, and the Celebrity Softball Game, a mind blowing mixture of hall of fame baseball players, local sports heroes and humanoids MTV has mass produced. Before we arrived at Target Field, however, we did come perilously close to losing Mark, who got distracted by an upcoming attraction at the Orpheum, and it wasn’t the Book of Mormon or Australian musical theater.

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Close call, but we moved on to Hubert’s to watch the World Cup final (boo hiss, Germany), and then ultimately on to our seats, right over home plate surveying the perfect Summer weather and the decorated Target Field.

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The field! Magnificent! Two very important features to note here: the MN state outline cut in center field and the fact that starting games three hours early at 4 pm makes the sun shine through the top deck, giving the field the terrifying appearance that the Cheshire Cat is here to cause mayhem (pitching mound is the nose). As the remainder of the night was high intensity baseball action, photos didn’t prove so interesting. So, curveball (zing!): running diary for part two! Let’s get to it: the FUTURES GAME.

4:43 pm, Sunday, July 13, 2014 – The Futures game has proven critically boring, as it is a baseball game with no one we’ve heard of being dominated by pitchers who are only asked to get three outs in their brief appearance. Solution: gambling. A fantasy draft is held with the two team’s rosters (USA versus international players), and whoever “owns” the inevitable game MVP wins, apparently a beer or something. My team: Kris Bryant (Cubs AAA uber-prospect), Francisco Lindor (once took photos of him playing in high school at Montverde Academy, cool!), Joey Gallo (a AA Texas Ranger, aka Frisco RoughRider, and I played on that field once, cool!), and Noah Syndergaard (who will terrorize my Braves for decades with Matt Harvey in New York, crap, not cool).

5:16 pm – Louie the Loon claims victory in the mascot race, and there was much rejoicing. God bless him.

5:25 pm – Boredom leads to the question being posed that if the four of us could select any individual to participate in the night’s celebrity softball game, who would we choose? I will let you all guess who chose who, but the four given answers ranged from the expected to the delusional, and from ridiculous to somehow even more ridiculous.

5:42 pm – The jumbotron is showing famous baseball moments called the “T-Mobile GameChangers.” This one is Kurt Gibson’s home run, and all four of us simultaneously and silently pantomime the famous fist pump as he crosses second base, proving to easily be the highlight of the Futures game.

6:01 pm – Jokes have been flying all night every time the center fielder makes a catch (see field photo above) as to whether it was caught in Fargo, Grand Rapids, in Pequot Lakes, etc; one if lofted into the air that is caught roughly in the Apostle Islands of Wisconsin. We also now realize the shortstop is clearly wearing yellowed/beige pants unlike everyone else wearing white. This is stimulating stuff.

6: 41 pm – The game mercifully ends with a fly ball caught somewhere near Grand Portage State Park and, thanks to a two-run bomb from the future Ranger, Joey Gallo is named game MVP . Not only did Team USA win, but I did too! I feel accomplished. Bring on the celebrities being ridiculous!

7:00 pm – The celebs have begun warming up and stretching. Adrian Peterson quickly reveals himself to be abysmal and unable to catch a ball, leading Ben’s sister-in-law to remark “Oh, look. He can’t hold on to that ball either.” Some quick highlights of the participants: National League is fielding Ozzie Smith, Larry Fitzgerald, Mike Piazza, Jennie Finch, John Smoltz, country singer David Nail, Andre Dawson, Doc Gooden and Bravo TV host Andy Cohen amongst a small stable of MTV personalities no one’s heard of. The American League counters with Ricky Henderson, AP, Fat Joe (who still looks skinnier in his Yankees hat than C.C. Sabathia), Zach Parise, January Jones, Rob Riggle, Jim Thome, Rollie Fingers, Celeb softball legend/Desperate Housewives alum James Denton and more MTV personalities. Both teams are also fielding one vet who lost a limb in Afghanistan, and both receive deservedly lengthy standing ovations (the AL player’s ovation turning into exuberant cheering when he began doing one-armed push ups). A brief fear that the AL is stacked is assuaged when, SURPRISE LATE ADDITION FOR THE NL, Nelly is here! When the on-field host asks Nelly if he plans to “go deep” tonight, Ben intervenes with “Nelly always goes deep.

The 1st inning – Nelly indeed does go deep (turns out he’s as good at softball as the film editor for ‘The Longest Yard’ convinces you he is at football). So does Mike Piazza, and Fat Joe goes first to third on a Parise double, I think sending every fan in the stadium through time and space. Did I say double? I mean Adrian Peterson almost Jose Canseco’d the ball over the wall by sucking.

The 2nd inning – David Nail hits a bomb. Someone makes a terrible “nailed it” pun. Andy Cohen manages to not only NOT run back to first on a caught ball, he doubles down on his idiocy and opts to run to third. Also, the MTV hatchling that hit it attempts to run to second apparently unaware you are out if someone catches the ball when you hit it.

The 3rd inning – Two realizations are hitting me as the NL is dominating. The first is that this game has to be the highest annual “phrases you’d never imagine you’d speak” per capita situation imaginable after we discuss how something called a “Melanie Iglesias” didn’t cover second base on a potential double play ball from OZZIE SMITH. The second is I can’t believe that this is how I’m going to watch John Smoltz pitch for the last time in my life. He proceeds to remove himself from the game for Jennie Finch, who promptly strikes out MTV’s Sway (another ridiculous sentence).

The 4th inning – While we, or at least I, have managed to spend the entire game stupidly gawking at January Jones (I think she had a personal wind machine to blow her hair around), we now notice no one is talking to her on the AL bench. Based on the collection of macho moron men on this team, this does not bode well for how compelling a conversation with January is.

The 5th and 6th innings – Unknown. We lost track as a friend from work invited us to his seats to buy us a drink. At some point Adrian Peterson demanded Finch throw him her normal softball pitches, causing his swings to almost screw him into the dirt like an ice auger. Both Nelly and David Nail hit second home runs, leading them to be declared co-MVPs. The game ended when Nelly booted a ball at third causing Sway to round it for home. Nelly threw a dart to Piazza who got Sway in the ensuing rundown, prompting Jake to observe, “Perhaps Sway shouldn’t have gotten into a rundown between John Smoltz and Mike Piazza.”

Post-game – An impromptu home run derby touches off, and the fans are now expectant of the softball fireworks show from future hall of famer and brief Twins hero Jim Thome that never manifested during the game. Instead, David Nail (seriously, wtf?) hits the most home runs, and proves to be absolutely awesome, other than his abysmal choice in hats. The game concluded with fireworks set to various songs, one of which was ‘Let It Go’ from ‘Frozen,’ promptly a really weird stadium-wide sing along.  The entire day and evening also came to a magnificent end when upon exiting the stadium, we were privileged to follow this situation back to our car. And yes, that is the Declaration of Independence written through the shirt.

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God bless baseball. God bless America. Hope you enjoyed a laugh! If you’re not exhausted yet, the third and final installment is right this way.

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