During spring training, comedian/actor Will Ferrell took to the diamond for charity.
The 48-year-old suited up for 10 different teams and played 10 different positions all in one day to raise money for cancer. He spent the day in March traveling to five Cactus League stadiums in Arizona.
Ferrell’s final stop of the day came during the Dodgers vs. Padres game where Ferrell played right field for San Diego before taking the mound for Los Angeles.
It’s also the game where Yankees farmhand Rico Noel made some notoriety.
Noel, who was in San Diego’s system at the time before being signed by New York earlier this month, was the player who got to bat against the right-handed Ferrell in a pinch-hitting appearance.
“It was kinda brought up to me pretty late,” said Noel, who was on the RailRiders earlier this month before getting reassigned to Double-A Trenton. “I was in the dugout and they kinda mentioned it real late like, ‘Hey, you’re hitting.’ Then it was funny because I didn’t realize he was about to pitch.
Noel received some instructions from his coaches prior to the at-bat and dug in.
“So I got my stuff ready and it donned on me,” Noel said. “Is he about to pitch?”
After Ferrell shook off several pitches from his catcher, Noel stepped out of the box grinning from ear-to-ear. When he stepped back in, the speedster laid down a bunt that Ferrell fielded and threw to first in time for the out.
“It was a floating fastball, was almost like a 12-6 curveball. But he threw it down the middle,” Noel said. “He didn’t throw one strike in warm-ups so I wasn’t expecting that, but the first one he threw right down the middle and I had no choice but to put it in play.
“I was going to take some pitches and make it a little more fun, but it is what it is. It was a good experience.”
It was not the easiest thing for Ferrell to throw out the speedy Noel, who has 273 stolen bases in 587 minor league games, and is 13 for 14 this season with three teams. Noel took it a little easy on Ferrell before regretting it.
“I didn’t slow down until he made the throw and it was halfway to first,” Noel said. “I bunted it right to him to see how he could field it and he looked like he’d been doing it for years.
“Afterwards I thought that I did that a little too easy for him and I should’ve gone down the line a little or deadened it where he had to come up and make a better play. He definitely surprised me with his efforts.”
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly pulled Ferrell from the game after facing Noel. He was immediately dropped and picked up by the Padres where he became teammates with Noel. The two got to bond a little and share a laugh when in the dugout together.
All in all, it was a great experience for Noel, and was part of the charity-making day as the proceeds benefited the Cancer for College Foundation, which gives scholarships to children with cancer, and the Stand-up to Cancer Foundation. The day was also recorded by HBO for a documentary to air on Saturday, Sept. 12 titled “Ferrell Takes the Field.”
“Definitely made it a lot better,” Noel said about Ferrell donating to charities. “It wasn’t just about him playing all the positions. It was a charity event, which made it a lot funner. A lot of people didn’t really take that into consideration like it should have been, but that’s what it’s for and it’s a great cause.”
Noel was originally drafted by the Padres in the fifth round of the 2010 draft out of Coastal Carolina. The 26-year-old played five seasons in that organization before getting released last month and being picked up by the Yankees.
He spent the entire 2014 season with Triple-A El Paso and started this season with the Chihuahuas. He was also teammate with Abington Heights grad Cory Spangenberg at Class A Lake Elsinore, Double-A San Antonio and El Paso.
Reach Dave Rosengrant at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @tldrosengrant