Pence, flag football, Yogi and Cameron Diaz. Just another day at Astros Spring Training.
It was supposed to be little more than a fun few minutes of catching passes from a Major League ballplayer, but right from the get-go, this flag football game carried with it a little something extra.
Addressing “teams” comprised of boys approximately 10-12 years old, Hunter Pence was fully engrossed in this flag football scrimmage. He huddled. Called plays. Talked strategy. If the kids were at all awestruck by being in the presence of a big leaguer, that quickly faded when the competitive juices kicked in and winning was on the line.
“It was beautiful offensive coordination,” Pence quipped, assessing his play calling. “I had a lot of great talent to work with. Those kids were amazing. I had a lot of fun. It brings me back to the old days as a kid.”
The flag football game was part of a flurry of activities Pence participated in during his visit to Disney on Friday, as part of the ESPN The Weekend festivities. Pence started in the Fun Zone, where he mingled with fans, signed autographs and, finally, choreographed a well-organized football game.
“That was the most intense flag football scrimmage I’ve ever been a part of,” Pence said. “The kids were actually sharp, paying attention, making great plays. That’s what this is all about — hanging with the young guys.”
Pence also sat on a panel of baseball players and experts during a special presentation of “Baseball Tonight,” staged in front of a live audience. The entire BBTN crew was there — Karl Ravech, Tim Kurkjian, Bobby Valentine, John Kruk and Nomar Garciaparra, in addition to Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista and Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee.
ESPN Deportes held a similar panel discussion on Saturday, with participating from Carlos Lee as well as retired Yankee Bernie Williams.
A full video of Friday’s activities can be found here. Here are some photos for further illustration…
Backstage at Baseball Tonight…Pence, Bautista, Lee
And on stage.
As I watched Cameron Diaz make her way to the front row of seats near the visitors dugout during the Astros-Yankees game on Sunday, I couldn’t help but wonder if she enjoyed that snail-like crawl down Hwy. 192, or if she stopped by the Firehouse Subs at the corner of 192 and John Young Parkway for a quick bite before the game like the rest of us.
The Astros’ spring home was packed to the gills on Sunday, and loosely calculated, the breakdown was as followed: 69.999 percent Yankees fans, 29.999 percent Astros fans, 0.002 percent Hollywood actresses (Diaz, who is famously dating Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, and Amanda Aardsma, girlfriend of Astros pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith).
Mix in a Hall of Fame legend (Yogi Berra) and there were clearly enough distractions to keep people occupied, just in case an exhibition game featuring 25 mph winds and a few Spring Training-ish home runs weren’t enough to hold their attention.
I snuck down to the concourse to try to snap a quick picture of Diaz, but needless to say, between the people trying to take pictures of her, the people trying to take pictures of the Yankees and the security gently asking us to “KEEP THE AISLE CLEAR PLEASE!”, I
didn’t have much luck. So her she is from the side. Sorry, best I could do.