NEW YORK -- Imagine Dwight Gooden pitching to batterymate Mike Piazza, Bernie Williams at the plate, Darryl Strawberry playing outfield and belting homers, John Franco closing for the National League team and Brooklyn native Chris Rock making you laugh at the Taco Bell Legends & Celebrities Softball Game on July 14 at Citi Field, the ninth annual Sunday nightcap event during All-Star Week.
Something like that is entirely possible -- especially knowing how demanding those provincial All-Star Week crowds can get at this popular event. Last year in Kansas City, where the Celebrities Softball Game was played to a packed house, Bo Jackson had pretty much no choice but to oblige the chants of the Royals-heavy audience and go up to the plate, bad back and all, to take one last swing at the fences as a pinch-hitter with two outs in the last inning.
Major League Baseball on Tuesday announced the rosters for this year's game, including those aforementioned figures along with Hall of Famers Andre Dawson, Rollie Fingers, Rickey Henderson and Ozzie Smith, Class of 2014 Hall of Fame candidate Frank Thomas and nine-time All-Star Fred Lynn.
"I'm very looking very much forward to that. I get to play in a softball game," said Franco, an MLB All-Star Ambassador. "I'm looking forward to it. I think it's great for the organization, for the city, and it'll be nice to see a couple guys."
The roster of celebrity talent includes Rock, the three-time Grammy and four-time Emmy Award winner; Long Island native and actor Kevin James; comedian George Lopez; Grammy and Billboard Award winning singer and actress Ashanti, also a Long Island native; Brooklyn native Mallory Hagan, Miss America 2013; Extra TV host and on-air personality A.J. Calloway; Olympic gold medalist and ESPN color analyst Jennie Finch; former New York Jets quarterback Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton of WFAN's Boomer and Carton Show; Grammy-nominated actor and musician Chord Overstreet; actor James Denton; Long Island native and comedian Gary Valentine; and Wounded Warrior Amputee softball player Josh Wege.
Franco and Esiason will be co-captains of the NL roster. Williams, the former Yankees great, will co-captain the AL squad along with Carton.
Fans can expect a look at what has become one of the best annual traditions in this event: Henderson batting against Finch. That has resulted in more than one longball through the years, and nothing is more entertaining in this game than a Rickey home run trot that can be best timed with a calendar. But with Rock, James and Lopez in the same game, something tells us there will be no shortage of laughter through this event.
"It's such an honor and so much fun," Finch said. "Just to be surrounded by great guys, great women. It's a great event."
Gooden was an All-Star for the Mets from 1984-86 and '88, and Strawberry from 1984-90 (also '91 with the Dodgers). Those two were key young members of the 1986 Mets club that won the franchise's last World Series title. Franco was an All-Star for the Mets in 1990, his fourth overall Midsummer Classic, having come to New York from Cincinnati. Piazza played with the Mets from 1998-2005, leading them to the World Series in 2000.
"I'd rather be a hitter," Gooden said. "Softball's pretty close. There are going to be some big guys up there, I'm sure."
Denton, the "Desperate Housewives" plumber, has been a mainstay in this event since the first one at Detroit in 2005.
"Just being around the legends keeps me coming back," he said. "To come to the All-Star Game in any respect, but also to come on the field the day before, it's a great way to see the stadiums from the field. ... It's a really great perspective."
One of the rosters also will include the top fundraiser from the MLB All-Star 5K & Fun Run benefiting Sandy Relief presented by Nike. That race will take place on the morning of Saturday, July 13, in Brooklyn's Prospect Park.
Preceding the softball game on Taco Bell All-Star Sunday will be the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, which will air live on ESPN2 at 2 p.m. ET that day, featuring some of MLB's best young prospects from the U.S. and around the world. Current Mets players David Wright and Matt Harvey are among the many young stars in baseball who have played in this game, including Justin Verlander, Prince Fielder and Joey Votto.
The softball game will be televised by ESPN at approximately 10:30 p.m. on Monday, July 15, immediately following the Chevrolet Home Run Derby, which begins at 8 ET. Tickets for Taco Bell All-Star Sunday can be purchased at AllStarGame.com.