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Why Will Ferrell is a good thing for MLB

Don't scoff at Major League Baseball for allowing Will Ferrell to roam free at Arizona spring training games on Thursday. It's just what baseball needs.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

You may have heard this before, but apparently, baseball is dying.

Scribes have been writing about the demise of baseball for years now, calling it a slow game, a boring game, a game for an older generation too geeked up by the speed and excitement of pro football and basketball.

Of course, this is a lot of malarkey. Baseball is not dying. But it does not have the type of interest among young people, millennials and the like, that football and basketball does. And while that is OK, the future of baseball would benefit from drawing the interest of more people under 34 years old.

That's why #FerrellTakesTheField was a good idea.

On Thursday, comedian Will Ferrell played in five different Cactus league games for 10 different teams and played 10 different positions, including pitcher, catcher and designated hitter. Here is what his schedule looked like at the beginning of the day.

  • 12:05pm ET: Seattle Mariners at Oakland Athletics
  • 1:10pm ET: Chicago Cubs at Los Angeles Angels
  • 2:10pm ET: Cincinnati Reds at Arizona Diamondbacks
  • 4:05pm ET: San Francisco Giants at Chicago White Sox
  • 6:15pm ET: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres

Ferrell was shuttled to each event by helicopter after playing half an inning for each team, all of which was filmed for an HBO/FunnyorDie special to honor baseball legend Bert Campaneris, the only man to play all nine positions in a single game. It was also to raise funds for organizations that fight cancer and provide college tuition to cancer survivors.

And while Ferrell had some fun while he was out there, he was all business when he was on the field.

There are some that will say Ferrell was making a mockery of the game. But that couldn't be further from the truth.

What Will Ferrell did on Thursday was generate honest-to-goodness, mainstream INTEREST in Major League Baseball in a way that isn't done very often.

Baseball has a hard time getting on the front page most of the time. The NFL's first week of free agency has been crazy, especially in Philadelphia. NCAA March Madness is getting into full swing. The NBA and NHL playoffs are on the horizon. It's tough for baseball to elbow its way into the national consciousness.

But Will Ferrell did that. He made people pay attention to baseball, even if it was just for one day.

His time on the field was entertaining and, after all, isn't that what baseball is supposed to be? These are spring training games, and Ferrell was playing a half an inning for each team at a different position. He wasn't taking anyone's spot. And it should seem obvious even to the players that Ferrell's presence was good for the sport as a whole.

Was he a distraction while he was on the field? Yes. Were some of the pitchers who were pitching in front of him, or when he was catching, TO him, perhaps annoyed at his presence? Maybe. He certainly forced Diamondbacks pitcher J.C. Ramirez to throw a bunch of extra pitches because of his lack of range in left while playing against the Reds.

But his presence out there gave the fans a charge, and make no mistake, he took the game seriously when he was out there.

Baseball needs things like this to get younger eyeballs to gravitate to the game. Improving the pace of play and speeding up the game times are important, and it's good baseball is trying to make improvements there as well.

But it also needs moments that are buzzworthy.

Thanks to Will Ferrell, baseball was just a little more fun on Thursday.