Moneyball: Casting for Authenticity

In casting the players on the 2002 Oakland Athletics, Bennett Miller put the focus on his desire to capture stark, naturalistic baseball action.  So he looked for the real thing, casting primarily experienced ball players who could act. Early on, the filmmakers enlisted Michael Fisher, whose credits include The Blind Side and Remember the Titans, to serve as the film’s baseball coordinator, who set out to assemble, train and choreograph a cast who could authentically recreate the A’s ballgames down to the details. 

Unlike the star-studded team of 2001, the 2002 A’s were a grittier bunch, but that led to a kind of unity that played a part in their record-shattering winning steak.  “There was definitely a spirit to the 2002 team,” observes Billy Beane.  “It was amazing how quickly they bonded, because they’d heard that they were going to come in last place or never make it to the playoffs.  Guys like Scott Hatteberg and David Justice came together quickly and I think they had a little bit of a chip because they were tired of hearing about how all the star players had left for the big markets and it did provide a bit of an incentive and created the esprit d’corps that we had.” 

The filmmakers looked for that same spirit in the casting.  “The casting process was pretty extensive,” recalls Fisher.  “Close to 750 guys tried out for the movie. We knew the best way to make it as authentic as possible, would be to get the best guys out there.”  Most of those cast previously played in the minor leagues, and two – Royce Clayton (who plays Miguel Tejada) and Derrin Ebert (Mike Magnante) – are former Major League Baseball players, with Clayton’s career having culminated in a World Series championship ring for his time as a shortstop with the Boston Red Sox.  

They include:

  • Chris Pratt /Scott Hatteberg, First Base, #10.  Pratt, best known for his co-starring role as Andy Dwyer on the hit NBC comedy “Parks and Recreation,” plays the injured catcher who becomes Billy’s Beane’s seemingly craziest acquisition – and strongest confirmation of his theories.  Not only does Beane surprise Scott Hatteberg with an offer to join the A’s, he stuns him with a bizarre request:  to play first base – a position he’s never played before.   Pratt came to the production as the only player on the team without any real baseball experience and trained extensively, just as Hatteberg had to do.  “Billy and Peter see the potential that nobody else sees,” says Michael De Luca.  “Chris is such a wonderfully humanistic actor, bringing both drama and humor – he makes you root for him and for the moneyball theory.”

 

  • Stephen Bishop/David Justice, Left Field, #23.  Bishop is a film and television actor (“Friday Night Lights”) and a former minor league player in the Atlanta Braves farm system.  While in the minors he formed a friendship with the man he plays in the film:  former All-Star David Justice.  “Justice,” Bishop says, “told me he couldn’t think of anybody he’d rather play the part than me.  That gave me a lot of confidence and I hope I do him justice.”

 

  • Casey Bond/Chad Bradford, Pitcher, #53.  Bond, a former college pitcher and outfielder, plays the A’s idiosyncratic relief pitcher who throws in a submariner, knuckle-scraping style.  Bond, who was drafted into the minor leagues as a centerfielder for the San Francisco Giants, quit the game to become an actor, having landed a national commercial in Nashville, and subsequently moved to Los Angeles.  Based on his resemblance to Chad Bradford and his ability to pitch with Bradford’s unique underhand style, he was cast in the role.

 

  • Royce Clayton/Miguel Tejada, Shortstop, #4.  Clayton is a former 1997 All-Star shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals who earned a World Series ring for the champion Boston Red Sox in 2007.  He plays six-time All-Star shortstop Miguel Tejada, who was the Oakland A’s MVP in their historic 2002 season, and who Clayton played against numerous times in the majors.

 

  • Nick Porrazzo/Jeremy Giambi, First Base, #16.  Porrazzo, who plays shortstop with the California Winter League, portrays first baseman Jeremy Giambi, the younger brother of the much better known, five-time All-Star Jason Giambi. 

 

  • Derrin Ebert/Mike Magnante, Pitcher, #52.  Ebert played in the minors for twelve years and was called up to the majors by the Atlanta Braves during their 1999 season. In his first acting role, he plays Magnante, the left-handed relief pitcher who in 2002 played his final year of Major League Baseball for the Oakland A’s before being replaced by Ricardo Rincon.

 

  • Marvin Horn/Terrence Long, Center Field, #12.  Horn, a former minor league player drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 1994, plays Terrence Long, an outfielder for the A’s during their 2000-2003 seasons, who played his last game in the majors for the Yankees in 2006.

 

  • Art Ortiz/Eric Chavez, Third Base, #3.  Ortiz, an up-and-coming actor who played baseball in college and spent some time in the minors, plays the third baseman, an American League six-time Rawlings Gold Glove recipient.

 

  • Brent Dohling/Mark Ellis, Second Base #14.  Dohling, a former college player and now baseball coach in Irvine, California, plays Ellis, the  second baseman who made his major league debut with the A’s in 2002.

 

  • Miguel Mendoza/Ricardo Rincon, Pitcher, #73.  Mendoza, a former Chico State college player, plays Rincon, who came on board the A’s as a surprise trade and spent three years (2002-2005) of his 10-year career as a relief pitcher with the team. 

 

The filmmakers also cast several pro baseball scouts to join the veteran character actors who make up the A’s scouting department, including former player and manager Ken Medlock (who plays director of scouting Grady Fuson), legendary scout Phil Pote, Los Angeles Dodgers scout Artie Harris and baseball coaches and managers George Vranau and Barry Moss.  Actors Glenn Morshower, Jack McGee, Nick Searcy, Vyto Ruginis, Bob Bishop, and Chris Lee round out the other scouts.

Beane appreciated that the filmmakers aimed for authenticity.  “They put a lot of detail into hiring guys who had a real background in playing, who look like athletes,” he says.  “I thought Chris Pratt who plays Scott Hatteberg was fantastic. I was moved by how he had some of the same mannerisms, how he even walked a little bowlegged like Scott, and he did a great job of recreating his whole demeanor.  Every time he did something, I’d say ‘Well, that’s what Scott used to do.’  It’s a very difficult thing to pull off, but as a guy who was in the game, I was impressed.”

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