FRISCO – The worst part about Dirk Nowitzki’s 2018 Heroes Celebrity Baseball Game is that the Dallas Mavericks’ legendary forward won’t get to play in it the way he wants to play in it.
Nowitzki is still recovering from left ankle surgery that he had on Apr. 5, which forced him to miss the last four games of the season. That injury will limit what the 20-year veteran can do when his popular must-see celebrity baseball game kicks off Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Dr Pepper Ballpark.
Before batting practice Thursday, Nowitzki was talking about everything from being a designated hitter to just finding some way to play in his own charity game.
“I’m not sure how we’re going to do it yet, but I definitely want to hit it at least once and hear my walk-up song,” Nowitzki said. “That’s part of the whole hype in baseball – you get fired up about your song.
“Since I can’t really run I’m not sure how we’re going to do that. Maybe we’ll have the whole infield and outfield freeze and let the ball go through and I walk to first base, and then I get out (of the game).”
Will that unusual strategy actually work?
“We’ll make something up, because obviously I can’t move enough yet to run the bases, unfortunately,” Nowitzki said. “But we’ll still have a good time.”
When Nowitzki went up to take batting practice Thursday, he shouted out seven harmless words to the pitcher. Nowitzki said: “Try not to hit my left ankle!”
Actually, there’s probably no better pitchman at any game than Nowitzki. He’s the consummate salesman, he’s always flashing that friendly smile, and he knows he has another hit – and another possibly sellout – on his hands when this game will be played Friday.
“Most of all I’m excited again that this is my seventh year of baseball here,” Nowitzki said. “I heard the game is almost sold out – there’s only a few hundred tickets left – and that’s obviously always a blessing.
“I’m honored that this game now is part of the community here in Dallas and obviously Frisco. It’s part of the community — how the celebrities are willing to come out and sacrifice their time.”
Nowitzki gave special praise to the Dallas Cowboys, who have always showed up in droves for this game. Cowboys players such as Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Sean Lee, Jeff Heath, Cole Beasley, La’El Collins and Byron Jones have made participating in this game a natural part of their summer ritual.
“Basically half of the Cowboys team is coming in the middle of their practices,” Nowitzki said. “They’re making time, and lots of others.
“So it’s an honor and I’m looking forward to some baseball tomorrow.”
Mavs players Harrison Barnes, Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, Salah Mejri, Kyle Collinsworth, Yogi Ferrell, Dorian Finney-Smith, Jalen Jones, Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber also will play in the game. And owner Mark Cuban and coach Rick Carlisle additionally will play and try to hit one out of the park.
Also, three students from Santa Fe High School — it was rocked when eight students and two teachers were killed during a violent gunfire at the school on May 18 – will throw out the first pitch in the game. Two of those students who will be at the game – Rome Shubert and Trenton Beazley – are members of Santa Fe’s baseball team.
“They’re both awesome baseball players, so it kind of makes perfect sense (to invite them),” Nowitzki said. “They’ve obviously been through a lot, not only physically but mentally, so I’m really happy that I can honor them and their families tomorrow.
“It worked out and I heard they’re thrilled and their families are too, so hopefully the crowd will give them a warm welcome. Hopefully this will help them get their minds off of some of this stuff they’ve been thinking about, and obviously they’re going through some tough times. So hopefully this can show them a good evening and they can meet with some of the guys – hopefully some of their role models – and just forget about some of the stuff they’ve been through for a day.”
Since Nowitzki’s ankle injury has put him out of the running for the game’s Most Valuable Player award, who does he believe is the odds-on favorite to take home the coveted honor?
“Kyle Collinsworth has been talking some smack a little bit,” Nowitzki said. “He said he played a little bit of baseball growing up in Utah.
“He said he’s a multi-sport athlete. I highly doubt it, because he’s not really a one-sport athlete.”
Nowitzki laughed at his own joke, then said: “That’s my guy. He said he’s a good baseball player, so he’ll try to
go up there and swing hard.
“I think (former tennis legend) Andy Roddick won (MVP) last year and he got up there and said, ‘See, even us tennis players are athletes.’ That was a good time. They’re all athletes and if you have a decent hand-eye coordination you should be able to hit the ball a little bit.”