Baseball In The Super Bowl

Many players grow up playing multiple sports. It seems to be pretty well known that Tom Brady and Russell Wilson both have connections to professional baseball in addition to the NFL. Some of their teammates have other connections to America’s pastime that are worth looking at as well.

Seattle Seahawks:

Russell Wilson

Before he became known as the Seahawks’ QB, Wilson spent time playing in the MiLB. He was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles out of high school in 2007 but elected to go to school at North Carolina State. Wilson spent several seasons playing for the NC State baseball team as well as a summer collegiate team called the Gastonia Grizzlies, he was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in 2010. He reported for spring training in 2011 and was assigned to the Tri-City Dust Devils, the Rockies’ Class A Short Season affiliate. The next season, he was promoted to the Class A Asheville Tourists. The following season, Wilson decided to enter the NFL draft instead of continuing his baseball career and was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in 2012. In a surprising move, the Texas Rangers picked Wilson up during the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 draft from the Rockies. Wilson has never played in the Rangers organization but did work out and participate with the team in 2014 during spring training. The Rangers still have Wilson listed on their Triple-A roster as a member of the Round Rock Express.

Cliff Avril and Jermaine Kearse

While Avril and Kearse don’t have  long list of baseball credentials on their resumes like Wilson, the pair did play in the United Way All-Star Softball Classic at Safeco Field this past June. According to Seahawks contributor Matt Gaschk, the duo weren’t half bad.

Richard Sherman

Another Seahawks charity softball game took place at Safeco Field in 2014. This time, it was Sherman hosting a game for his foundation. Teammates Michael Bennett, Doug Baldwin, and Earl Thomas took part in the game which had other superstars participate including Kobe Bryant. You can read more about that event on ESPN here.

Luke Willson

The Seahawks tight end was a three-sport athlete splitting time between football, baseball, and hockey. Willson even signed a free-agent deal with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011 but decided to pursue football. You can read more on the Seahawks website here.

New England Patriots:

Tom Brady

Brady was drafted out of high school by the Montreal Expos in 1995. However, he decided to go after football instead. Big League Stew writer David Brown wrote this piece on Brady in 2012. Another fun fact? Brady’s brother-in-law is MLB vet Kevin Youkilis who married Julie Brady in 2012.

Julian Edelman

Edelman is friends with J.P. Arencibia and had the opportunity to take batting practice with the Toronto Blue Jays a few years back. This article written in the summer of 2012 states he apparently impressed their coaching staff with his abilities. You can even see his swing for yourself. Edelman posted an Instagram video hitting bombs last March.

Stephen Gostkowski

Believe it or not, Gostkowski was a star pitcher out of high school earning a scholarship to play baseball at Memphis. Arm injuries kept him from his full potential but he turned to football and now he’s in the Super Bowl. The Hartford Courant has a cool piece about him here.

And with both teams pitted against each other, it will be fun to see which dual athletes are victorious this year.

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Peanuts And Cracker Jacks

As many journalists can tell you, sometimes you have to leave out fun anecdotes when you write a story simply because there isn’t enough time or space to fit everything in. To combat this problem, I present Peanuts and Cracker Jacks where I can hopefully post these snippets of info that aren’t big enough to really constitute their own stories. This past week, I visited with Texas Rangers outfielder Michael Choice, pitcher Shawn Tolleson, and TV play-by-by announcer Steve Busby as part of the Rangers Winter Caravan. (You can read the full story here: Winter Caravan.) In addition to talking about the upcoming season, we talked about Matt Harrison’s return to the MLB, up and coming Rangers’ prospects, the Royals post-season run, and the Ogden Raptors.

STEVE BUSBY ON MATT HARRISON

“Matt is the kind of guy that you know one thing going in will give you 100% and will try as hard as he possibly can. Not a lot is known about the recovery process from that particular surgery at the big league level. Not that many guys have had it. Matt is in uncharted territory. But I have 100% faith as far as Matt is concerned, I know full good and well that he’s going to try as hard as he possibly can hopefully to get back in playing condition by the middle of the season.”

STEVE BUSBY ON JOEY GALLO AND ALEX “CHI-CHI” GONZALEZ

“I think they would benefit from being held back just a little bit. It’s been a whirlwind for them at the minor league level and sometimes that doesn’t translate as quickly as you would like for it to at the big league level. So from their standpoint, I know they want to play in the big leagues. They may be better served if they wait a little bit longer like one more year at Triple-A and really get a good, solid foundation going but I have no doubt that those two will be at the big league level very soon.”

STEVE BUSBY ON THE ROYALS IN THE WORLD SERIES

“I thought it was great. I really did. I thought it was fantastic. You know 29 years for any city is a long time to wait. I know the folks in Kansas City were chomping at the bit for it. It couldn’t happen to a better bunch of folks. It’s kind of like what the Rangers went through the first time in 2010. A lot of people just had the feeling of I never thought I’d see this happen. I know the people of Kansas City felt the same way. George (Brett) always has a smile on his face but watching him up there during both the playoffs and the World Series, I’ve never seen him smile anymore. It was perfect.”

SHAWN TOLLESON ON PLAYING IN OGDEN

“It was an awesome place for my first professional experience. It was cool. It was the first team I ever played for. I lived with a host family and had a successful start to my pro career there. The Pioneer League was great. I had a blast. Guys complain about the bus trips and the cold and all that kind of stuff but I just love baseball and loved playing there. The people and fans were great all throughout the league. That’s really cool to hear that they’re doing well and I wish that I could have played in the championship series when I was there. I wasn’t ready to be done when it was time to go home. I was ready to keep playing.”

Minor Leagues And Movie Magic: Part Two

After working in both film and minor league baseball, I noticed some similarities between the two. Some might look at both mediums and see only differences but you might be surprised. They have a lot more in common than you think.

1) Both are forms of entertainment.

Entertainment is mainly considered to be movies, music, and theater but it also includes sports and sporting events. If you think about it, you can see bits and pieces of it when you go to games through in-game entertainment whether it be someone singing the national anthem before a baseball game, music that plays throughout the stadium, or in the case of the arena football team the LA Kiss, impromptu concerts at the game.

2) Both have long hours.

Long hours of hard work go into both businesses. During the baseball season, we worked normal office hours on off-days and road games but homestands were always the craziest. We would get to the stadium as early as 8 a.m. and not leave until 1 or 2 a.m. and then be up and ready to go at 8 a.m. the next day. The film world is no different. On several days, it would be normal to get to set at 5 a.m. and leave at midnight to return early the next day. However, the film world has stricter rules regarding the amount of time spent on set with most, if not all, crews get a mandatory amount of time off before they can return to work. This ensures everyone gets rest and isn’t overworked.

3) Both have two sides to the business.

There are two sides of leadership when it comes to film and minor league baseball. When it comes to minor league baseball, there is the front office side which mainly takes cares of the business side of things. Then there is the team side of things. The President and or GM of the team is in charge of the business side while the manager is in charge of the team side. In the film world, it’s divided between the business side and creative side. On the business side, the producer is usually in charge while the creative side is led by the director.

4) Both include coming together with strangers to create something.

When you show up on set, it can be unnerving on the first day because you know absolutely no one. Yet you come together to film scenes which ultimately make up the movie. Baseball is the same way. When you first get hired to work on a team whether it’s full-time, part-time, or as an intern, you work together with the rest of the staff to create the ultimate fan experience to complement the baseball game. If you do a good job, fans will keep coming back.

5) Both include working with high-profile people.

Every now and then you’ll bump into your share of well-known people. In baseball, I’ve had the pleasure of working with major league players while I’ve worked with A-list actors on several films. The key is to keep your composure and do your job. While it’s a perk to work with celebrities, it shouldn’t be the reason you’re there. If you are there to fawn over actors and baseball players, maybe you should find another line of work.

6) Both involve working up the ranks.

With most jobs and positions, it takes time to work up the ranks. In baseball, it can be from an intern to a full-time job to climbing the levels of the minors just like the players. In film, it most likely is starting out as some sort of production assistant and then moving to whatever department interests you.

7) Both involve increasing levels of success.

This ties in with working up the ranks. With each team/film growing in size and popularity, it can create new challenges in terms of your job description. Working as a production assistant on a crew of 40 people is a lot different than being an extra where the combined cast and crew is 400. Working as an intern for a Double-A team with a staff of 50 is different than working for a rookie short-season team with a staff of 11.

8) Both have varying levels of job stability.

Job stability can sometimes be rare when working on films because as soon as you wrap one, unless you have a job immediately lined up, you’re out of work after every project. It’s the same thing for many minor league baseball interns looking to break into the business and sometimes players. After each season, it takes a lot of effort to find that next opportunity with another team.

9) Both include taking risks to follow the dream.

It takes a leap of faith to follow film and baseball because neither one is really guaranteed. They are similar in the fact that sometimes it requires moving hundreds of miles to wherever the job is while knowing absolutely no one with no guarantee that it will extend past the specific project.

10) Hard work can turn both into a reality.

It’s not easy to chase film and baseball. They both involve inherent risks and aren’t really stable lines of work. But with hard work and determination, it can be done. I never expected to get into baseball or film. They both just kind of happened. If it can happen to me, it can definitely happen to you.

Minor Leagues And Movie Magic: Part One

The front of the set was brightly lit as I sat in my chair watching members of the grip and electricians team rig the lights for the next setup. It was my first time acting in a movie. The extra sitting next to me bumped my arm.

“What do you do for a living,” he asked.

“I’m a freelance sportswriter,” I replied.

A member of the crew overheard me.

“You’re a sportswriter?”

I shook my head yes and he replied that Marc Abraham, the director, used to be a sportswriter. Before we could continue our conversation one of the assistant directors yelled out that we were ready to roll. As the day went on, I thought about how baseball and the entertainment business seem to be linked in more ways than one including people in the business who have crossed over. As I thought about it, players have come to mind so I decided to take a look at people who have gone on to work in the movies. Because it’s a broad subject, I narrowed the field down to people who predominantly spent their careers in the minors and/or covering the minors. I’ll probably forget a few but I’ll do my best to cover as many as I can.

Marc Abraham (Photo courtesy: Toronto International Film Festival)

Marc Abraham (Photo courtesy: Toronto International Film Festival)

Marc Abraham

Abraham started his career working in advertising but decided to work as a freelance sportswriter. He has written two books about the International Olympic Games for Universal Press and was introduced to filmmaking while working on a documentary about the Cuban athletic system including baseball. Since then he has gone on to become the producer of films like Children Of Men, Dawn Of The Dead, and Air Force One. He is currently in post-production on a Hank Williams biography called I Saw The Light which he wrote, produced, and directed.

Casey Bond as Oakland A's pitcher Chad Bradford in the movie Moneyball. (Photo courtesy: Fresno Grizzlies)

Casey Bond as Oakland A’s pitcher Chad Bradford in the movie Moneyball. (Photo courtesy: Fresno Grizzlies)

Casey Bond

Bond spent two years in the San Francisco Giants minor league system after being drafted out of Lipscomb University. He was drafted in the 25th round of the 2007 draft. The Giants released him after the 2009 season. He decided to pursue acting and made his big debut playing Oakland A’s pitcher Chad Bradford in the movie Moneyball alongside Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. Several other minor league colleagues have written about his journey including the Fresno Grizzlies and two articles by Ben Hill which you can read here: Grizzlies, The Farm’s Almanac, Casey At The Blog. Since then, Bond has compiled a bigger resume which you can see on IMDb. I had the pleasure of working with Bond and Abraham on I Saw The Light and can definitely say I hope to work with them again.

Cody Decker (Photo courtesy of El Paso Chihuahuas/San Diego Padres)

Cody Decker (Photo courtesy of El Paso Chihuahuas/San Diego Padres)

Cody Decker

An up and coming filmmaker and baseball anti-hero Cody Decker currently plays in the San Diego Padres minor league system. In addition to hitting blasts over the outfield fence, he also does filmmaking on the side which he posts to his Youtube channel Antihero Baseball/Daylight Films. His cinematic masterpieces include On Jeff Ears and Brad. Be prepared to laugh because you will.

Scott Patterson pitching for the Columbus Clippers. (Photo courtesy of GilmoreGirls.org)

Scott Patterson pitching for the Columbus Clippers. (Photo courtesy of GilmoreGirls.org)

Scott Patterson

Most people probably know Scott Patterson as Luke Danes on Gilmore Girls but first he was a minor league baseball player. He was in the Atlanta Braves farm system from 1980-1982 until he was traded to the New York Yankees for Bob Watson. Patterson made it up to the Triple-A level and was placed on the Yankees major league roster for awhile but never played in any major league games. His last season was in 1986 and he picked up acting in 1988. In addition to Gilmore Girls, he has appeared in multiple TV shows and movies including Saw IV, V, and VI.

Ron Shelton (Photo courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter)

Ron Shelton (Photo courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter)

Ron Shelton

Shelton joined the baseball world after being drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 39th round of the 1966 MLB draft. He stayed in their farm system from 1967-1971 including stops in Bluefield, Stockton, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Rochester. He went on to become a director/writer/producer and gave audiences the baseball gem that is Bull Durham. He is also know for writing and directing White Men Can’t Jump and Tin Cup.

Kurt Russell (Photo courtesy of baseballhotcorner.com)

Kurt Russell (Photo courtesy of baseballhotcorner.com)

Kurt Russell

He is mainly known as a movie star now but Kurt Russell also played in the minors. As a matter of fact he grew up with baseball and acting in his blood. His dad Bing Russell was an actor mainly known for Westerns including Bonanza and The Magnificent Seven. But his dad also loved baseball  and played in the New York Yankees minor league system for awhile. He bought the Portland Mavericks, an independent Class A league team, in the late 70s. They made an awesome documentary about it called The Battered Bastards Of Baseball. (It’s currently streaming on Netflix.) Kurt played in the California Angels farm system from 1971-1973 before continuing his acting career which began in 1957 when he was a little boy.

Michael Jordan playing for the Birmingham Barons. (Photo courtesy of Yahoo Sports)

Michael Jordan playing for the Birmingham Barons. (Photo courtesy of Yahoo Sports)

Michael Jordan

Honestly, I don’t think this guy really needs an introduction especially for my generation. However many forget that Michael Jordan did in fact spend one season playing in the minor leagues. It was the 1994 season and the team was the Birmingham Barons. Jordan may wish to forget that stint with only a .202 batting average and 114 strikeouts. But that baseball memory will live on through the cinematic classic that is Space Jam making Jordan a triple threat: baseball, basketball, movie star.

Logan Miller, on the left, with his twin brother Noah, on the right. (Photo courtesy of Entertainment Weekly)

Logan Miller, on the left, with his twin brother Noah, on the right. (Photo courtesy of Entertainment Weekly)

Logan Miller

Miller was drafted twice by the Montreal Expos: in the 23rd round of the 1992 draft and in the 47th round of the 1993 draft. Several elbow injuries and surgeries kept him from playing until the 1996 season which he spent with the Dunedin Blue Jays before eventually hanging up his cleats. He teamed up with his brother Noah and the pair write, produce, and direct movies including Touching Home starring Ed Harris and Sweetwater which was released in 2013.

Those are just some former players to come through to go on to bigger and better things. Another thing I pondered while I sat on set is how similar the movie business is to baseball. Stay tuned for Part II where I’ll shed a little more light on the situation…..