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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…..