Elizabeth, a Bostonian, shared this first-person account of seeing Matt at Fenway Park:
Sure, he's got an Academy Award, but for ``Good Will Hunting'' star Matt
Damon, who grew up in Cambridge idolizing Carlton Fisk and the Boston Red
Sox, standing at the podium in L.A.'s Shrine Auditorium was nothing
compared to standing behind the plate at Fenway Park.
``It's a different feeling but there's no comparison for me. This is it!'' said a pumped-up Damon. ``Every kid who grew up around here dreams about swinging the bat at Fenway Park and I got to swing it 14 times!''
Damon, Hollywood hunks Kevin Costner, Mark Harmon and Buffalo Bill Doug Flutie supplied the star power at yesterday's All-Star Celebrity Hitting Challenge at Fenway Park.
But it was legendary Red Sox slugger Jim Rice who came up with the power hitting that led his and Damon's team to victory.
``Jim took batting practice with me clinging to his back so he could practice carrying me,'' joked Damon after the contest.
But even though Matt was the weak link on his team, dubbed The Yawkeys, he was clearly having the most fun. And that's what it's all about, isn't it???
Damon talked about watching Hitting Challenge teammates Rice, Fred Lynn, Dwight Evans and Rico Petrocelli as a kid at Fenway.
``They were like superheroes to me,'' said the Boy Wonder.
And when he sat down next to Costner and ``Chicago Hope's'' Harmon in the media interview room, Damon asked his dad, Kent, to throw him a disposable camera.
``I wanted to get a shot of all you guys,'' Matt said, as he snapped photos of the All-Star press corps. ``Because this is as close as a Damon is going to get to being interviewed at a Major League ballpark. Smile!''
Damon, who wore Pudge Fisk's No. 27 on his jersey yesterday - the same number he wore on the Cambridge sandlots growing up - was practically giddy with excitement before he got up to bat.
A lifelong Red Sox fan (``It's like the Mob, it's something you're born into''), he recalled going to Fenway with buddy Ben Affleck to be extras in Costner's flick, ``Field Of Dreams,'' when it was filming here.
``We came down for the 50 bucks and to see if we could sneak on the field and maybe pluck up some grass and take it with us,'' he said. ``The ballpark has definitely got a special meaning for the kind of people around here.''
Damon confessed he hadn't played any baseball since he was 12, but the rest of the celebrity contingent had clearly been practicing.
Costner, who'll screen his new flick ``For the Love Of The Game,'' - his third baseball movie - today, has been living and breathing baseball for the better part of the past year. And when he got up to bat, it showed.
Harmon, a former college football star, also smacked the ball well, as did Flutie.
``I have very high standards for myself, I guess,'' Flutie said. ``I over-prepare for things. We were down at the beach last week at Delaware and we were driving back and there was a batting cage. I made the car stop, took some cuts, and got back in the car.''
Like Damon, Flutie was on a hometown high.
``It's a neat feeling for a kid that's grown up in Boston and been around this and sat in the bleachers so many years,'' Flutie said. ``It's so fun.''
Costner and Harmon - who were upstaged, big time, by Damon - couldn't work up much empathy for Fenway, being California boys and all, but Kevin did pay tribute to Red Sox legend Ted Williams.
``We'll see Ted this week and we don't know what condition he'll be in, but I'm sure there are some people in this room who saw him when he was the strongest man in the world,'' Costner said.
As for Harmon, he said a summer day at Fenway with a bat in his hand was just what the doctor ordered.
``What's not to like?'' he asked.
But Damon, who was mobbed by the media while Costner and Harmon talked to a lot of empty chairs, was clearly the hometown hero. ``I don't think I have much to brag about but I'll be bragging about the team I ended up on,'' he said. ``This is an experience I'll take to the grave.''
File under: Boys Of Summer.
7/12/99 Well, Matt got his wish at the All-Stars. That's he in the red uniform in the photos above. According to Felicity, there was a closeup of him and Doug Flutie which appeared on the front page of the Boston Globes online version, but - alas - it had vanished by the time I got to it.
From Yahoo (and the Boston Globe):
BOSTON (AP) - Matt Damon stepped to the plate, missed one pitch, hit four others foul and put only two balls into fair territory.
Not exactly a McGwiresque performance, but a crowd pleaser nonetheless.
The actor from Cambridge, Mass., took part in Sunday's celebrity hitting challenge, part of five days of events leading to Tuesday night's All-Star game. So did actor Kevin Costner, who fared better ...
The last time the All-Star game was in Fenway Park was in 1961. There was no celebrity hitting challenge, no FanFest, no home run derby, no Futures game. The spotlight was, simply, on the game.
And that's where it remains despite all the sidelights.
``I don't think that takes the spotlight off the game,'' Damon said before taking his cuts. ``This is just some kind of warmup stuff, revenue for the city, an excuse to come out to the ballpark on a sunny day for a lot of people.'' ...
From the Washington Post:
BOSTON, July - Kevin Costner knew what he wanted to say to Lou Brock. He
wanted to thank him. He wanted to tell him how much he'd enjoyed watching
him play, tell him how he would never forget the way Brock could dominate a
game with his speed and grace.
Yet when he came face to face with one of his boyhood heroes this afternoon at Fenway Park, he could not find the right words. So he looked at Brock and smiled, saying nothing. As he stammered to think of something to say, he realized nothing was necessary. Brock had been through these situations so many times that he simply smiled and nodded, his way of acknowledging the compliment.
"We had this complete dialogue where we didn't say anything," Costner said, amazed.
Costner's chance meeting with Brock was one of the small, special moments this afternoon as major league baseball began a three-day celebration that will conclude with the playing of the 1999 All-Star Game Tuesday night. There was a celebrity hitting contest that allowed actor Matt Damon to take batting practice with boyhood heroes Jim Rice and Dwight Evans. There was Rice once more banging balls off the Green Monster.
Finally, there was the Futures Game, a seven-inning contest featuring the top minor league players. One team was composed of U.S. players, the other of minor leaguers from other countries. Four of the nine starters for the World team were from the Dominican Republic, including the game's MVP -- Yankees shortstop Alfonso Soriano.
Soriano, 21, showed why he's one of the most coveted prospects in the game by hammering two home runs and driving in five runs to lead the World team to a 7-0 shutout of the U.S. team at sold-out Fenway Park.
"You can't imagine what it means to me in terms of my career," Soriano said. "I think right now my mother back in the Dominican must be the happiest woman in the world."
Scouts were also dazzled by reliever Francisco Cordero, a 21-year-old Detroit prospect who was clocked at 95 mph during a brief and overpowering seventh-inning appearance. Cordero threw the hardest pitch of the afternoon, but the second-hardest came from Baltimore Orioles prospect Matt Riley. Called on to get the final out of the top of the seventh inning, Riley's one and only pitch was clocked at 94 mph.
"It was just good to be here and be part of it," said Riley, who plays for the Class AA Bowie Baysox. "It's great to be considered good enough to be in this company."
Seemingly on the fast track to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Riley must decide whether to participate in the Pan American Games this month. Regardless of his decision, he probably will be in the big leagues -- perhaps for good -- in September.
The Orioles also have high hopes for Class AAA Rochester first baseman Calvin Pickering, who struck out in his only at-bat. Soriano and Cordero briefly grabbed a piece of the spotlight today, with the major leaguers arriving on Monday.
Regardless, the real star of this All-Star Game is Fenway Park, the revered ballpark that opened the same week the Titanic sank 87 years ago. In a city where baseball matters more than perhaps any other in the country, Fenway has had its every quirky nook and cranny recorded by assorted poets, novelists, historians and songwriters. New Englanders know it for the Green Monster in left, Pesky's pole in right, the way the ball bounces crazily off the center field wall. They know it as the place Babe Ruth pitched, the place Ted Williams refused to acknowledge the cheers and the place Bucky Dent hit the home run that took the 1978 AL East title away from the Red Sox.
At a time when the Red Sox are urging city leaders to assist them in constructing an updated version of Fenway Park across the street, this week is seen by many as the beginning of many goodbye parties for the old ballpark.
"It was unbelievable walking up the steps to the field," Damon said. "I mean, that's something you dream about. I wish I could explain what it feels like. I'm going up there taking my hacks for every kid who will never get a chance to do it and never will be a professional baseball player.
"I was really nervous. I was nervous that I was going to be nervous. When I got up there, I was just so excited. I kept saying to myself, 'I'm swinging at Fenway Park, this is unbelievable.' Every kid around here, every single kid around here, grows up wishing they could swing the bat once."
Damon laughed as he remembered the day he and some friends came to Fenway to be extras when Costner filmed a scene for "Field of Dreams." "We came down to Fenway that day for $50," he said, "and to see if we could sneak on the field and maybe pluck up some grass and take it with us. The ballpark has definitely got a special meaning for the kind of people who are around here."
Costner called it a day "for people who genuinely love the game." Dozens of baseball's executives and talent evaluators who showed up for the Futures Game share his love. This was a day to see Fred Lynn's sweet swing one more time and a day to watch the players projected to be the stars of the next decade -- from 6-10 pitcher Ryan Anderson of the Seattle Mariners to outfielder Pat Burrell of the Philadelphia Phillies to pitcher Mark Mulder of the Oakland A's.
"When I heard this game was going to be played, I had to be here," Cleveland Indians General Manager John Hart said. "This is a great opportunity to put faces and bodies and style of play with all the scouting reports that we see all the time. I'm not saying we can get all these players, but you want to be familiar with them. I can't run out to Memphis and all these places to see young guys. This is a great way to stay in touch with them."
Ted Johnson was one of the many spectators in the crowd yesterday. The
Patriots linebacker, however, missed what he most wanted to see - the
celebrity hitting contest.
Johnson had out-of-town guests, and eventually got to the park, but not in time to watch Jim Rice, Fred Lynn et al.
``Yeah, I'm bummed about that,'' Johnson said. Not half as bummed, however, as his girlfriend.
``She was only here for one reason,'' he said.
And what was that?
(My note: That gal's got GOOD taste.)
Matt Damon can carry a movie, but he understood his role perfectly when it
came to yesterday's Celebrity All-Star Hitting Challenge.
Just climb on Jim Rice's back and enjoy the ride.
``We had batting practice with me clinging to his back, so he could practice carrying me when he swung,'' cracked Damon after his ``Yawkey'' team won the four-team hitting exhibition at All-Star Sunday at Fenway Park.
Three home runs from Rice, two in the first round, and one in the final, did carry his team, which included former ballplayer Steve Garvey, to the winner's circle in classic Rice fashion.
Rice, who regularly launches home runs over The Wall when he takes a break from his Red Sox hitting instructor duties and takes BP, was head and shoulders above everyone else on the field.
He was happy to win, although for reasons not so apparent for the casual observer.
``I think that some of the (Red Sox) players that are sitting in the clubhouse today probably were watching this, and they told me, `Do not lose, I don't care what you do, do not lose,' '' said Rice. ``And so guys, we didn't lose.''
The hitting contest is a pretty silly time-filler that features four three-member teams. Points are awarded for hitting different parts of the outfield on the fly, with the points increasing according to distance. Each player had seven swings, with the last swing counting for double points.
The teams with the top two scores advanced to the second round. In the first round, the Paul Reveres, featuring Doug Flutie, Andre Dawson and Fred Lynn, blew away the first two teams with 650 points. Lynn looked particularly impressive, clubbing the first home run of the day by wrapping a shot around the Pesky Pole.
The Yawkeys needed to beat the 400 points gathered by the Pilgrims (Kevin Costner, George Brett and Dwight Evans) to advance. Damon led off and managed a mere 30 points.
``I was nervous that I was going to be nervous, but when I got up there I was just so excited,'' said Damon. ``I probably would have done a lot better if I relaxed, but it's hard to relax under those circumstances.''
Garvey scored 150 points, leaving it up to Rice to knock in at least 220 points by himself to at least tie the Pilgrims.
After his first three hits, which included a 100-point home run, Rice had 180 points. Needing 40 to tie and 50 to advance, Rice hit another 100-point home run.
In the final round, despite Damon improving to 70 points and Garvey again hitting 150, the Yawkeys were behind, 380-120, when it was Rice's turn.
Rice went 6-for-7, with another home run, for 360 points this time. Another 150 points from Lynn fell 30 short of the Yawkeys total.
``It was different,'' said Rice. ``It brought back memories and of course, seeing the fans and being on the field in front of the fans and to be part of the All-Star Game, and having the celebrities that you have, and the players that you have, it was a victory.''
The Yawkeys were asked if they would be up to defending their title at next year's All-Star game in Atlanta.
``George Brett was asked back this year, so I think it's apropos that Major League Baseball bring back the winning team,'' said Garvey.
Leave it to Damon to get to the point.
``In other words, it's up to Jim,'' said Damon.
Flutie was easily the most productive celebrity on the field, producing 150 points in the first round, leading Costner (110) and Mark Harmon (90).
In the second round, Flutie had 260 points, while Dawson hit the fourth home run of the contest.
Matt Damon, actor and rabid Red Sox fan, got another chance to improve his less-than-stellar televised batting performance at Fenway Park Sunday. Damon, whose swings were off at the All-Star Celebrity Hitting Challenge, was much happier Monday. He told other fans that he came back to the park after hours Sunday night for another try and hit the wall once, with his father, Kent Damon, pitching. ... The Cambridge native was one of the biggest attractions at the private party after Monday night's Home Run Derby. Though Boston native Donna Summer was singing on a stage in the Brookline Avenue parking lot, Damon and other special VIPs stayed inside the heavily guarded tent while the ordinary VIPs gawked and took pictures. With his brother Kyle and father along, Damon chatted up Hall of Fame inductee George Brett and Red Sox star Nomar Garciaparra. Also visiting the tent were New York All Stars Derek Jeter and Mike Piazza; former Boston Brave Warren Spahn; Rachel Robinson, Jackie Robinson 's widow; New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his son Andrew; Red Sox boss John Harrington; baseball commissioner Bud Selig; Patriot Max Lane; former Red Sox and New York Giant Bobby Thomson; and former Red Sox Dominic DiMaggio.
Damon keeps his day job
Damon's team took home the blue Tiffany's boxes and the crystal stars inside, thanks to the batting of former All-Star Steve Garvey and former Red Sox player and now Sox batting coach Jim Rice, who belted three out of the park. Rice was asked by a sports writer what his recommendations as a hitting instructor for Damon would be but the actor cut off the question: "He can't take that question." . . . Damon, who tallied the lowest score, got ready for yesterday's demonstration with the help of sportscaster Sean McDonough, who took Damon -- and the actor's father and brother -- to the South Shore Baseball Camp in Hingham. "And boy, was I terrific yesterday," Damon said. "I was great. I should have brought that bat.