Culture change? Will Ferrell makes sudden impact as Cub for (part of) a day

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TEMPE, Ariz. – As quickly as he made an impact in a Cubs uniform – contributing to a Jorge Soler home run and getting in Addison Russell’s face to help the kid shortstop deliver a third hit – Will Ferrell had gone the way of Milton Bradley and Carlos Zambrano before him.

Called off the field for a defensive replacement in the fourth inning of the Cubs’ game against the Angels Thursday, the player-coach of “Anchorman” fame angrily threw his glove to the ground and stalked off the field.

It was his last act as a Cub. By the end of the day he had made the rounds to six more teams – including the White Sox – and was out of baseball.

“He said something to the umpire,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon deadpanned. “With that attitude, we didn’t want that kind of stuff permeating the dugout.”

To be sure, Ferrell provided a hefty, sudden dose of culture change for Cubs and the rest of the Cactus League Thursday – spending an inning or two at five different parks, playing briefly for 10 different teams and even spending most of a half-inning coaching third for the Cubs – complete with cue cards, like the one he raised for Mike Olt that said “Swing as hard as you can.”

“I used that one,” said Olt, who then fouled off a pitch as Ferrell held up sign that said, “Take a pitch.”

Yes, Olt admitted, he’d missed a sign that was literally spelled out for him in big, bold letters on a large placard.

“Yeah,” he said, “I was just so focused out there I just missed it.”

Will Ferrell played first base for the Chicago Cubs on Thursday. | AP Photo

Ferrell made the rounds Thursday as part of an HBO production, in partnership with MLB, while trying to raise what Ferrell said in a radio interview he hoped would be $1 million for charities, including the Cancer for College scholarship program.

“It was a lot of fun, man,” said Maddon, whose only previous encounter with Ferrell came years ago at Yankee Stadium when Ferrell pestered him from the seats behind the dugout – “Hey, Maddon! Hey, Joe Maddon! Turn around!” He never turned around and was told only after the game who the voice belonged to.

“I think it’s good for baseball in general to have him do something like this, with his popularity,” Maddon said. “He’s got athleticism, too. It’s not like he’s void of athleticism.”

Replacing Mike Trout in center for the Angels – taking Trout’s cap and glove in the process – Ferrell fielded Welington Castillo’s ground ball single to center, and quickly threw it to a cutoff man about 50 feet away.

The Cubs “acquired” Ferrell from the Angels in a mid-game trade that was rumored for a while to have involved Edwin Jackson.

Apparently, the Angels weren’t hungry enough for pitching to make that deal. Maddon said the Cubs got him for “some burritos, I think.”

At his first stop of the day, with the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners, he told A’s shortstop Marcus Semien, the former White Sox player: “I could catch fire today, and you could be on a bus back to triple-A.”

When Seattle reporters wanted to talk to him: “I can’t talk. I’m in Beastmode.”

Will Ferrell’s brief stint as third-base coach. | AP Photo

As Cubs’ third-base coach, he held up a cue card for Jorge Soler that read: “Don’t pull a muscle.”

“I loved it,” pitcher Jason Hammel said. “Obviously, he can’t read English. So there’s no communication level there. And I don’t think Will knew that.”

One pitch later, he ran through a sequence of exaggerated baseball sign language, including a torso gyration, double-knee clutch and arm swipe. Soler hit the next pitch for a homer.

“That was the home run sign,” Olt said straight-faced. “He told us that before the game.”

At one point while third baseman Kris Bryant was standing on the field, Ferrell engaged him in what looked from afar like a serious discussion.

Bryant recounted:

Ferrell: “What are you guys doing after the game?”

Bryant: “I’m going to Vegas.”

Ferrell: “Well, I love Vegas. … What’s your game?”

Bryant: “Uh, none.”

Ferrell: “Oh. … My game’s roulette.”

The best exchange between third-base coach Ferrell and a hitter might have been when he held up a card to Welington Castillo that said, “You are sooooo handsome.”

Castillo gave him a thumbs up, and Ferrell switched to another sign: “I’m not just saying it.”

“He’s nuts,” said Bryant, who hit one of his two home runs over Ferrell’s head in center. “It’s kind of cool, though. … It’s never going to happen again. We had fun.”

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