The Nashville Sounds were party to a star-fueled Minor League promotion last Thursday during a 3-1 victory over the Round Rock Express, the AAA affiliate of the Houston Astros.
Will Ferrell, in the persona of a nefarious Venezuelan pitcher, Rojo Johnson, took the mound in the sixth inning for a riotous act. Wearing a mustache and a plethora of gold necklaces, Ferrell lived up to the hype Express CEO Reid Ryan (Nolan Ryan’s son) gave his character in an announcement on the team’s site.
"The Round Rock Express have acquired Billy Ray "Rojo" Johnson. The right-handed pitcher will be in uniform for Thursday's 7:05 p.m. CDT game against the Nashville Sounds. Johnson, who was born in East Texas but was raised in Venezuela, recently had his prison sentence commuted. He served time for running a smuggling ring that imported rare and illegal species of reptiles into the United States from South America during the mid-to-late 1990s. Thursday night's game marks Johnson's first in American professional baseball after a storied career in the Venezuelan leagues."
While the Sounds were not directly involved in the gag, they were happy to participate.
“They [Ferrell’s people] actually approached Round Rock, who then informed us,” Michael Whitty, the Sounds’ media relation manager, said. “They needed one of our tops.”
Dressed in a Sounds uniform, an executive for the Express’ parent company, J.J. Gottsch, stepped into the batter’s box against “Rojo.” Though he was “allowed” to carry a plastic bag of beers to the mound, Rojo got “tossed” for a crotch-grab after throwing his first pitch behind the batter.
Classic Ferrell antics followed: beer spraying, a chase through the outfield, and a faux shoving match with the Sounds’ bullpen.
View video of the episode here.
Nashville pitcher Tim Dillard was one who enjoyed the spectacle.
“We had caught wind the first day we got there that something was going on and that Will Ferrell would be there, so you can imagine the excitement,” he said. “A couple of our guys got to grab and shove him out the center-field gate so that was fun.”
Perhaps the funniest part of the joke lies in the response of duped Round Rock fans commenting on the team’s site.
Commenter “rodreel” had this to say: “I’m sorry but no matter how well this convict pitches he shouldn’t be allowed at Dell Diamond. These convicts are a dime a dozen and you don’t hear about them much because they are shunned by baseball. What will this guy do if he figures a bad call was made? How might his actions influence his teammates and the Round Rock tradition? He has had his chance. I say NO NO to “Rojo” let him live on the streets like a HoBo!!!!!!!!”
Ferrell’s appearance helped break up the monotony of a 10-day Nashville road trip, during which the Sounds went 4-6. They returned to town Monday and began an eight-game homestand the following day.
“It was great,” Dillard said. “That guy is a genius.”