In a meeting with his players Thursday, Rams coach Jeff Fisher laid out a game plan for them to follow on Thursday night.
In some ways, it was the first official game plan of Fisher’s tenure with the Rams but it had nothing to do with football. Instead, it had everything to do with Fisher’s first celebrity softball game in St. Louis, an event that benefited five charities and brought out a number of current and former Rams.
While Fisher’s football game plans will be geared toward helping the entire Rams team win games, this one was a bit different. Make no mistake, its sole purpose was to end with the result of Fisher’s team winning but it also served as a method for casting some of his players in the role of the Washington Generals to his team’s Harlem Globetrotters.
So it was no surprise that when Thursday night’s game at GCS Ballpark in Sauget, Ill. came to its conclusion, Team Fisher had emerged triumphant against Team Schottenheimer with a 13-9 final.
“I have a reputation of winning this game,” Fisher said, a grin creeping across his face. “I was 10-1 leading into this game and now I am 11-1. The time we lost I got so far behind and I just felt sorry for them.”
While Fisher’s squad claimed a victory, there were no losers on a night where five charities near and dear to Fisher benefited greatly from a big turnout at the event. The Backstoppers, the Wounded Warrior Project, the Snow Foundation, Mercy Ministries and Catch-A-Dream foundation will all receive part of the proceeds from the game.
Although he hasn’t had many moments to come up for air since he was named coach in January, Fisher said it was nice to get a chance to connect with his new community while also giving his players an opportunity to have a little fun before the grind of training camp starts on Sunday.
“It was great,” Fisher said. “It’s been a real fast offseason and things like this are not easy to put together. We couldn’t have done it without all the sponsors and everybody working hard. It’s a great way to kind of ease into training camp and get the rookies out here to see different things that we are doing. Then in addition to that, to get the veterans out here to have some fun before we start playing football.”
To be sure, there was fun in abundance on Thursday night. The evening started with a little league game and was followed by a home run derby featuring current Rams
Going to show that their athletic skills aren’t just limited to the football field, the majority of the Rams put on a show in the home run derby with Amendola and Laurinaitis hitting six of 10 pitches for home runs in the opening round.
Eventually, it was linebacker Hull emerging victorious as he bested Amendola in the final round by hitting all six of his pitches for home runs. For added emphasis, Hull wasn’t just hitting fence scrapers that barely cleared the walls set up just short of the actual fences used by the Gateway Grizzlies baseball team.
“I have been swinging a baseball bat for the last month and a half. I was ready to go, man,” Hull said. “I was hitting some moon shots, over the buildings, over the baseball fence. I have done it all.”
It didn’t seem to be much of a coincidence that Hull was a part of Fisher’s team when the actual game got underway soon after the home run derby’s completion. Fisher’s team, wearing white, featured Hull, Amendola and a host of other talented players with Fisher handling the starting pitching duties.
Team Schottenheimer, coached by offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, was led by Laurinaitis, former Rams great Torry Holt and Pettis, who has a Major League Baseball pedigree in his background.
While the teams appeared to be divided fairly evenly, throughout the game it was evident that Fisher’s game plan had some built in advantages to help his team win, some of which were far less subtle than others.
“I think Coach Fisher knows what he’s doing, let’s just leave it at that,” Channel 5’s Heidi Glaus said, laughing. “Just in the few minutes I have been around him, he just seems like such a real guy. He doesn’t appear to take himself too serious. He’s just seems like a fun guy. People are going to fall in love with him if they haven’t already.”
Indeed, there were plenty of hijinks throughout the night, many of which were perpetrated by Fisher himself. Included in his bag of tricks were stunts such as the hidden ball trick, pitching two softballs at the same time, blatantly pushing first baseman
“He makes the rules and we have to live by it,” Laurinaitis, who earned game MVP honors in a losing effort with two home runs, said.
While Team Schottenheimer dealt with their uphill climb as well as possible, one move landed quarterback
Schottenheimer had his son, Sutton, run for him in one of his at bats. Sutton had safely made it to second but ran to third on a pop fly. Before he could retreat, Clemens doubled Sutton off of second.
“Kellen Clemens will not be with the Rams if I have anything to do with it come tomorrow morning,” Schottenheimer said, doing his best to keep a straight face. “He and I go way back; I can’t believe he did that. My boy is crushed, just in tears.”
One player who did manage to get the best of Fisher and Co. was Rams great Holt, who quickly agreed to participate after being asked but marveled at the idea that he was playing in a charity softball game of the coach who he helped defeat in Super Bowl XXXIV.
“If 13 years ago you told me that I’d be at this, absolutely not,” Holt said. “But I have so much respect for Coach Fisher and what he’s doing for this team and this organization, I think it’s outstanding. So I am expecting some really good things out of him as long as he’s here.”
Holt’s admiration for Fisher didn’t deter him from competing with him, though. In his first at bat, Fisher attempted to quick pitch Holt, who jumped back in the batter’s box quickly and deposited a home run over the left field fence. A few innings later, Holt tested Fisher’s reflexes by dropping a bunt for a hit.
Needless to say, Holt still enjoys the competition and the opportunity to get the better of a former foe.
“I know he’s thinking,” Holt said. “He’s a former player and now a coach so he’s always thinking. And as cool and calm as he is, he still has that competitive edge. I just wanted to make sure if it was something he and I have going on, I just wanted to make sure I won.”
While Holt won that battle, it was Fisher and his team that ultimately won the war, just as the game plan dictated.