Vikings running back Adrian Peterson stepped into a batting cage Sunday at the Minneapolis Convention Center, took a few hacks and declared himself ready to play later that day in the All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball game at Target Field.
“It felt pretty good,” Peterson said. “I haven’t swung a bat in like 15 years, easily. I have to make sure I stretch, but I’ll be good to go.”
Peterson looked like Bo Jackson in his baseball uniform, but while athleticism can often flow freely from sport to sport, made-for-TV events have a way of humbling superstars.
In his first at-bat, Peterson grounded out to rapper Nelly at third (Nelly, in all honesty, was one of the best players on the field). In the next half-inning, playing the outfield, Peterson drifted back and dropped a fly ball. Next time up, U.S softball star Jennie Finch threw three fastballs past a stunned Peterson. He got another chance with Finch lobbing a few in, but he grounded to third again. In short, he looked like a guy who said he had only played two organized games of baseball in his life.
“I just got into football and stuck to that,” Peterson said.
Wild star Zach Parise played a couple of years of baseball growing up, and his comfort level on the field was more evident.
“The last time I hit a softball it was here, when T.C. Bear beat me in a home run derby,” Parise said before the game. “Maybe I’ll get some redemption.”
Indeed. He doubled in his first at-bat, singled next time up and played shortstop. Lynx star Maya Moore had an impressive stretch playing first base, save for a missed double play attempt that she protested.
It was all in good fun, of course, as everyone from Rickey Henderson to Andrew Zimmern shared the field. Henderson hit a leadoff home run and hot-dogged around the bases in classic Ricky fashion. Jack Morris and John Smoltz were the starting pitchers — same as they were for Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, albeit in a game with a little more on the line.
“You’re so used to being around hockey players,” Parise said. “To see legends from these other sports, I’m still a fan of a lot of them. … Rickey Henderson, Jack Morris, Smoltz. I was a fan growing up, so it’s fun to be around them.”
Peterson, Parise and Moore drew loud cheers. One of the strongest ovations came for former Twins slugger Jim Thome, who became an instant fan favorite in two seasons at Target Field.
“It’s so special,” Thome said. “When they invited me to come in, to me it was a special thing. I hadn’t come back in quite a while.”