TEMPE, Ariz. -- Mike Trout doesn’t yield much ground to anyone. But he gladly relinquished his glove, cap and his position to a 47-year-old replacement Thursday afternoon.
Comedian and actor Will Ferrell, who commandeered the Cactus League for a day in conjunction with an HBO special (with the proceeds going to the fight against cancer), replaced Trout in center field in the third inning of the Angels-Cubs game at Tempe Diablo Stadium and had a brief interaction with the 2014 American League MVP.
"He told me he was going to take my job," Trout said. "He was just messing around with me. He’s a funny guy, so it’s all good."
Before the day was over, Ferrell flashed his defensive chops in the outfield, went down swinging at the plate and elicited numerous yuks as Chicago’s third-base coach before fleeing the premises for the Diamondbacks-Reds game at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale.
Spring training begins to drag a little bit around mid-March, so Ferrell’s appearance generated some welcome buzz in the Los Angeles clubhouse. The Angels laid out a locker with his nameplate and a No. 19 uniform in honor of former Oakland infielder Bert Campaneris, who played all nine positions in a game 50 years ago.
Angels players shared their favorite Ferrell movies, with Trout opting for "Step Brothers," David Freese mentioning "Anchorman" and noted film buff C.J. Wilson favoring "Talladega Nights" and "Stranger than Fiction."
"I loved 'Blades of Glory,' too," Wilson said. "My two favorite parts of that movie were Will Ferrell’s hair and the way he portrayed his fall from grace in the sports world. It was a truly powerful and enigmatic performance."
Ferrell, who began his five-park, nine-position odyssey at noon at the Seattle-Oakland game in Mesa, arrived at the Angels-Cubs game at 1:10 p.m. and slapped hands with fans down the first-base line. He exchanged some more high-fives and back slaps in the dugout before replacing Trout.
For a middle-age entertainer, Ferrell acquitted himself nicely on a line single by Chicago catcher Welington Castillo. He fielded the ball cleanly, took a nice little crow hop and quickly fired the ball back to the infield. When a reporter observed that it looked like something straight out of a Tom Emanski instructional video, Angels pitcher Zach Stewart agreed.
"Maybe he can be in the next one with Fred McGriff," Stewart said.
Ferrell’s stint at the plate -- in a Cubs uniform -- wasn’t quite as successful. He took two fastballs down the middle from Stewart before striking out on a heater.
"He’s a menacing figure at the plate," Stewart said, laughing. "So I had to bring my best stuff to get him out. I didn’t know I was facing him until I picked up the ball after my last warmup pitch and saw him walking up and I heard the crowd cheering. I knew I was in for it then. I was like, 'I have to bring my 'A' game. I can't walk Will Ferrell.'
"It was just heaters. I was trying to blow his doors off. He put a good swing on that last one. It’s a good thing he didn’t catch up to it and take me off the wall or something."
Ferrell entertained the crowd by waving cue cards at third base ("Remember, These Games Don’t Count," said one), and took a cameo at first base for the Cubs before flinging down his glove, heading to the Chicago dugout, hugging manager Joe Maddon and disappearing out to the parking lot.
It might have been hokey as promotions go, but the fans and players all seemed to enjoy it.
"Spring training is great," Wilson said. "You’ve had Garth Brooks playing for the Royals and Billy Crystal with the [Yankees]. That’s the cool thing. We had Brian Urlacher last year. But we don’t have too many famous people that want to be Angels, so we’ll take what we can get. Who was in 'Angels in the Outfield' -- Tony Danza and Christopher Lloyd?'"