FRISCO -- On a night full of luminaries, future Hall of Fame wide receiver Terrell Owens was the star among stars as he led the White Sox to a 13-6 victory over the Blue Sox at Dirk Nowitzki's Heroes Celebrity Baseball Game. This was the 11th annual edition of the midsummer event. Former Dallas Stars Stanley Cup champion Mike Modano 'passed the torch' of the hosting duties to Mavs NBA champion Dirk Nowitzki, and the last-minute addition of NBA on TNT's Charles Barkley ensured that this would be a night to remember for the fans.
We arrived at Dr. Pepper Ballpark just after 4 p.m. for the press conference featuring all of the game's participants, including Nowitzki, T.O., Modano, Charles Barkley, Vince Carter, Daryl "Moose" Johnston, Rick Carlisle, former Mavs guard Nick Van Exel, photographer Danny Bollinger, Drew Pearson, Delonte West, Dez Bryant and 103.3 ESPN Radio's Ben Rogers and Jeff "Skin" Wade aka Ben and Skin. Barkley took the bulk of the questions and explained why he chose to come to this event on the eve of his trip to Wimbledon. "Dirk called me and I am here because of him," Barkley said. "I'm a big Dirk Nowitzki fan. Obviously as a player, but also as a person."
The sweltering heat did not sway the sellout crowd from showing up early for the Celebrity Home Run Derby, but it did keep many of them hanging back in the shade. While Barkley failed to hit a ball out of the infield, Dallas star Josh Henderson did his best "Josh Hamilton" impersonation as he let go of the bat on a big cut. Former Texas Rangers player Kevin Mench won the contest, followed by former Major League player Ben Grieve.
Owens led off the game with a base hit on his way to going 3-for-3, including a triple. He thought about trying to stretch it into an inside-the-park home run, taking a big turn around third before slamming on the brakes. Barkley took the mound and promptly gave up a three-run homer to Mench that hit the WinStar Diamond Deck in left field. That blast was followed by a Dez Bryant line drive that had Sir Charles surrendering his pitching duties. He returned to the mound later for a rematch with Mench. With the former Ranger swinging for the fences, Barkley induced a pop-up and some trash-talking.
The evening did have the feel of a Mavs game: it was fast-paced with plenty of entertainment between innings and the team's TV play-by-play voice Mark Followill provided some very entertaining P.A. banter. While our seats down the first base line were directly in the sun until the fifth inning, a performance by the Dallas Mavericks Dancers on top of the first base dugout made the heat more bearable. As for the Mavs in the game, Dirk and Carlisle each had a pair of hits while Brian Cardinal and Dominique Jones dazzled the crowd with some great defensive plays.
The biggest gasp of the night came when Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant slid awkwardly into second base. But he got up with a smile and stayed in the game. Following the action and a dance contest that saw Bryant defeat Scrubs star Donald Faison, the crowd was treated to a fireworks display.
It was one of the year's best events and I'm already marking next year's game on my calendar, with a side-note to sit in the shade on the third base side.
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