Kansas City, Mo. Bill Self, who was booed heavily by Missouri fans and cheered wildly by Kansas supporters, stepped into the batters box during the second inning of Sunday’s all-star celebrity softball game in Kauffman Stadium.
Wearing a powder-blue American League jersey, white pants and a K.C. Royals cap, Self, KU’s basketball coach, measured the first pitch from Olympic softball hurler Jennie Finch and blasted it over the left-center-field fence.
Yes, in storybook fashion, Self actually lined a home run in the AL’s 21-8 loss to the National League, before 40,095 fans.
Self, who hadn’t played softball in 20 years until last week when he visited the batting cages twice at Clinton Lake Softball Complex, was mobbed at home plate by his teammates. His homer was preceded by a Mike Sweeney dinger and was followed by a round-tripper from singer David Cook.
“I was surprised as anybody hitting a home run,” Self said. “I don’t know if anybody actually swung and missed the whole night. I was worried I’d do it three times. To actually put the bat on the ball was pretty cool.”
In the fourth inning, Self hit a screaming foul ball down the left-field line, then grounded out to third, holding his right hamstring — which he pulled Saturday in preparing for the game — as he jogged down the baseline.
In the sixth inning, Self made it a 2-for-3 night at the plate by stroking a hard single to left field. He was immediately replaced by a pinch runner.
“I was nervous because I couldn’t run to first,” Self said, explaining how he hurt his hammy.
“I thought I better do some running for this and I mistakenly put the treadmill on ‘four-minute mile,’” Self cracked.
At least Self did receive a hug from model Chrissy Teigen as he hobbled to the bench after the ground out.
“The hug from Chrissy was nice. Jennie gave me a hug after the game, too,” Self laughed of pitcher Finch.
Self, who played second base for the first two innings of the six-inning game, had one play in the field. He caught a pop-up off the bat of first-inning leadoff man Ozzie Smith to loud cheers. Once the Missouri fans figured out it was Self who clutched the pop up, however, boos cascaded through the stands.
Self also was booed during pregame introductions by MU fans. KU fans tried their best to drown out the nasty reception.
“I always kind of thought Mizzou people liked me for some reason. I guess I was off base on that a little bit,” said Self, who wasn’t the only local player booed. Fans booed K.C. Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel during introductions, but gave him polite applause during his at-bats.
“I didn’t think it (reception) would be great. When I left the bus to go to the batting cage (in Little K in left field before game), I didn’t feel a lot of love walking through the crowd. I thought it’d be pretty much like it was,” Self said.
He was asked if it felt good to “shut up” the MU faithful.
“I don’t know if it (home run) actually shut them up,” said Self, who was booed as he rounded the bases.
Self was amazed by the huge throng of fans, who also were treated to the Baseball Futures game, won by the U.S. over the World team, 17-5.
“I told (wife) Cindy before we came over here. She said, ‘What time do we need to leave?’ I said, ‘I can’t imagine there will be more than 5,000 or 10,000 people there to come watch softball.’ Little did I know. I was dead wrong,” Self said.
Self wore jersey number 8.
“It was supposed to be ’08,” he said, signifying the 2008 national champs. “I asked the manager what number should I wear? Right off the top of his head he said ’08. I requested ’08, and they gave me 8. I wish I could have wore ’12. That would have been good the way we played this year.”
Self said he’d tape tonight’s ESPN replay of the softball game (to be aired following the 7 p.m. Home Run Derby).
He’ll be back at Kauffman Stadium watching the Derby as a fan.
“This is pretty cool. There are some unbelievable athletes here, some big guys. I lockered next to Bo Jackson,” exclaimed Self, who before the game and during the game caught baseballs from fans, signed them and tossed ’em back into the crowd.
“Two of the greatest athletes combined lockering next to each other. That was pretty cool,” Self added with a smile.
Jackson, by the way, made a surprise appearance at the plate. Jackson, who has a bad hip, popped up to end the game after being convinced to pinch hit for Joe Carter by fans who chanted Jackson’s name.
Future KU guard Conner Frankamp scored 22 points Sunday in the United States’ 95-62 rout of Australia in the championship game of the FIBA Under 17 world championships in Lithuania.
Frankamp, a 6-foot-1 senior from Wichita North, hit seven of nine shots, including four of six threes for the U.S., which went 8-0 at the tourney. He started and played 22 minutes.