The Lexington Legends did their part to warm the hearts of baseball fans Wednesday.
The team's annual pre-season caravan made stops in Richmond and Lexington to publicize the coming season.
Opening day for the South Atlantic League team is April 12 at Whitaker Bank Ballpark. The Legends, in their 12th season, will take on the Kannapolis Intimidators.
Former Eastern Kentucky University star and big-league outfielder Josh Anderson, arguably the most popular player ever to don a Legends uniform, was featured at the Richmond stop.
The Lexington cast included Lafayette High School and University of Kentucky product Jeff Parrett.
Parrett, who pitched 11 seasons in the majors, is preparing for his first season as head coach at Woodford County High. The Yellowjackets have their first scrimmage scheduled March 12, three days before opening the season at Collins.
He has lived in Woodford County for 14 years, where he farms (cattle and hay) and, with wife Debbie, raises two daughters (Kyla and Alyssa) and a son (Logan).
Parrett is a regular at Legends caravans. He has been pals with Gary Durbin, Legends vice president of facilities, and Brad Redmon, former majority owner of the team, since all were in Little League.
"And Chris Cross and Mike Cameron," Parrett said, nodding to the WLXG-AM broadcasters who had just interviewed him. "Getting a chance to be on radio, promoting baseball, that's always a fun thing to do."
Parrett's big-league career was highlighted by a 12-4 record with the 1988 Montreal Expos and a 9-1 season with the 1992 Oakland Athletics.
Before the bigs, though, came the minors.
Parrett's first stop came in the final year of the Brewers' affiliate in Paintsville.
So what is it like to be among a group of players entering professional ball at that low level?
"It's a mess," Parrett said with a laugh. "It's just like anywhere you go in society. Some guys are very organized, they're hygienic, they know the right things to eat and the right places to go. Then there's the rest of us."
In Paintsville, he was one of four players sharing a trailer-park home. He recalled that the team traveled by school bus.
Parrett spent only 3½ weeks with the team before being promoted to Beloit (Wis.).
In Beloit, he lived in a house that was built atop a TV store.
"It was hot, to say the least, up on that tar," he said.
That was the start of a career that took him far from the tar, though. He still enjoys watching Legends games.
"That's a great place to spend a summer evening," he said. "They've had some really good players come through at the Legends' ballpark. ... They always told me that the only difference between a minor-leaguer and a major-leaguer is consistency. The skill level is pretty much the same except for the few — the really far-out ones like (Albert) Pujols, (Prince) Fielder, people like that. But basically it's the same game you see in the big leagues."
■ Minnesota Twins outfielder Ben Revere, who has participated several years, was among several late scratches from the caravan lineup in Lexington.
However, Alan Stein was among those stepping into the batter's box.
The former president and CEO of the Legends, who led the effort to bring professional ball to Lexington, retired from the team last October.
Now, he's involved in Stein Group LLC.
"At its core, it's a consulting and investment business, but we're doing a lot of pro bono work, too," Stein said, citing recent efforts to help the local Big Brothers, Big Sisters organization.
Clients include three baseball teams. Stein wouldn't identify the teams, but he said he is consulting on building a new stadium for one team, and on game-day operations and marketing with the other two.
Stein has been involved in the construction of minor-league stadiums in Lexington, Bowling Green and, most recently, Omaha, Neb.
He plans to keep close watch on the Legends, too.
"I'm going to be around a lot," he said. "Probably, frankly — depending on how much travel I have to do this summer — I bet I'll see more games at Whitaker Bank Ballpark than I did in the last couple or three years. But it will be relaxing.
"The key to me always was hanging around the fans and the players, and watching the games. I'm looking forward to that."