A Tater Trot wasn’t part of
Cassel connected on a pair of line drive base hits in his first two plate appearances while hitting in the three-hole ahead of Hall of Fame Royal George Brett. Cassel also drew the starting assignment in left field for the American squad next to MLB career stolen bases and runs scored leader Rickey Henderson.
Eventually, Cassel would shift to the hot corner where he was peppered with ground balls off the bat of softball gold medalist Jennie Finch.
Aside from back-to-back-to-back home runs from former Royals slugger Mike Sweeney, KU men’s basketball coach Bill Self and Chord Overstreet from Glee, there weren’t many highlights for the American squad in lopsided loss to the National League.
Regardless, Cassel had a great time playing softball alongside his childhood idols and was able to support several charities in the process. He was also able to share the experience with his older brother, Jack, who was a former big-league pitcher with the Padres and Astros.
KCChiefs.com was able to catch-up with Matt after the event.
I guaranteed one of my friends at the game that you’d bring out the yardstick, but it looks like your swing is built for line drives…
“I was definitely disappointed that I couldn’t get the ball up in the air (laughing).”
So it was a little different than the charity wiffle ball game you played in last year where you hit two home runs?
“Yeah, I crushed the ball in the wiffle ball game. Unfortunately the softball just comes in differently and I couldn’t seem to get under the thing. I was like, ‘ahhhh’ after each swing.”
You opened the game playing left field next to Rickey Henderson and then were hitting in the three-spot ahead of George Brett. What was that experience like?
“It was unbelievable. I didn’t really know the list of guys that were going to be there until I got to the stadium, but then I walk into the locker room and there is Rickey Henderson, there’s Bo Jackson, Steve Garvey, Mike Sweeney, Dave Winfield – you’ve got all of these guys that I grew up watching throughout my childhood years.
“Guys like Joe Carter, for instance, it was just such a great experience to be around those guys and also able to interact with them, ask them questions and hear some stories. It was a fantastic night and to be able to experience it with my older brother was pretty special as well.”
A lot of people don’t know about your family baseball background – from two brothers who played professionally to your own time in the Little League World Series playing for the Earthquake Kids. A lot of the guys you were with played while you were growing up. That had to be incredible just interacting with them.
“There’s no doubt, and also to make that crossover since I play a completely different sport and you usually interact with your (football) peers. Baseball is my first love and to go back and see these guys who are Hall of Famers, to be out on the field at the same time and to interact with them in person was very special to me.”
What led to you and Jack (Cassel) taking in the event together?
“Jack retired a few years back, now lives in San Francisco and runs a charity (Players for the Planet). There is an event for the charity on Monday night. He teamed up with Major League Baseball in bringing awareness of going green, recycling and all of that stuff. So he still has a lot of interaction with current professional baseball players through that charity.
“But at the same time, for him to come out was so cool for us to share the experience together. The baseball community is such a tight-knit community and he was able to relay stories with guys like Rickey Henderson and some of the other guys there. Just to see him talking and throwing stories around was pretty special and very cool to see.”
With you and Jack being professionals who reached the top of your game, do you ever reflect on things with him?
“Oh yeah. He was up with the Padres for two years and with the Astros as well. So he had some big league time and was able to start a few games as well. His biggest accomplishment was his first major league win as a starter against the Pirates.”
Who surprised you the most that wasn’t a former big leaguer? Maybe an actor or someone else, and Jennie Finch doesn’t count since she’s basically a big leaguer herself.
“Yeah, Jennie doesn’t count because she’s awesome. I think Eric Stonestreet (of Modern Family) was one of the guys I really liked hanging out with. He’s all about Kansas City. He’s from Kansas City and he’s a huge Chiefs fan and he loves Kansas State too, so he was giving Bill Self a hard time all night. It was just hilarious listening to him all night because he was so quick-witted and funny. We had a great time hanging out all day. It was just a blast.
“The other part that I thought was really special was the Wounded Warriors that were out there playing on both teams. To pay tribute to them and have them play was pretty cool. We were able to thank them for their service and all that they’ve given up for us in the sacrifices they’ve made.
“I could go on and on, but we met with the Make a Wish Foundation too and were able to interact with those kids. That’s always something that’s heavy on your heart when you meet children with various illnesses. You try to make a difference in their life. We also dealt with Habitat for Humanity and showed our support as they built nine homes that are going to Joplin, Mo. So the entire day was pretty magical just in terms of Habitat for Humanity, meeting with the kids of Make a Wish Foundation and interacting with the soldiers who had lost their limbs in war. And then to wrap all that up with my childhood heroes makes for a pretty good day.”
You made a nice snag at third base to throw out Jennie Finch. Was that the old glove growing up or a new one?
“If it was my old glove I would have snagged it off the bat, but those are softball gloves and I had to knock that thing down. Jennie ran one out on me earlier in the game and she was really humming it down the base path. So the second time I wasn’t going to let her leg out another one and flung it over to George Brett at first. He was a little upset that I threw it so hard, but it ended up being okay.”
2012 Taco Bell All-Star Legends & Celebrity Game Batting Practice - Pictured Left to Right: Chiefs QB Matt Cassel, Baseball Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, Former MLB Pitcher Jack Cassel