Casey On The Mound

By: Noah Frank

In the middle of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, the San Francisco Giants selected a pair of players with the same last name in consecutive rounds: Bond. The first Bond— Brock— may be more familiar to Grizzlies fans, and the story of his accidental union with the Giants farm system is chronicled in greater detail here. Until now, Brock’s story had been more relevant to the baseball world than the other player who shares his last name, Casey Bond, a former outfielder out of Lipscomb University, who played just a single game above A-ball in his short minor league career. That may well change today.

In the film Field Of Dreams, Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones seek redemption for a young ballplayer named Archibald Wright “Moonlight” Graham, who appeared in one Major League game for the New York Giants, but never got an at-bat. Casey Bond had a similar experience with the Grizzlies, as that single game above Single-A came with the Fresno club on the road in 2008. He was a fill-in to provide extra depth while the team was in Tucson, near the Spring Training complex in Scottsdale where Bond was awaiting his more permanent assignment for the season. Bond was transferred to the Grizzlies and was on the roster for a few games, but did not get into a game until the top of the tenth on April 21st, 2008.

Casey Bond played in one game as a Fresno Grizzly in 2008. (Bill Mitchell)

Unlike Graham, though, Bond did get his at-bat. Pinch-hitting for relief pitcher Alex Hinshaw with two on and two out in a 4-4 game, he grounded out to end the inning. The Grizzlies would go on to score in the 11th, taking a 5-4 victory. Bond would never don the orange and black uniform again, as the Giants would not offer him a contract the following year.

“I 100% thought I had a shot at the big leagues,” says Bond about his time in the minors. “I had— just knowing myself and what the scouts told me— all the tools that it takes. Speed, defense, power, arm and average.”

To those who have read Moneyball, the game-changing book by author Michael Lewis, that may sound awfully familiar. The story centers around Billy Beane, a sculpted athlete of a man whom the scouts drooled over, only to find that the sum of his “tools” did not add up to a successful ballplayer. It is in that vein that Beane then searched out players who were underrated and underappreciated by the existing system, in order to piece together a team that could excel at individual skills well enough to compete with higher payroll teams.

How ironic, then, that Bond himself fit the Billy Beane mold, and is set to make his Major League debut tonight on the big screen, rather than in the actual big leagues. Bond plays the role of athletics pitcher Chad Bradford in the film adaptation of Moneyball, which premieres at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland tonight.

Bond as Bradford, the submarine-throwing relief pitcher. (Sony Pictures)

Bradford also hails from Jackson, Mississippi. As Bond was raised primarily in Georgia, he felt at ease playing the role of a character from the same region, allowing his natural soft southern drawl to play through in his lines. Interestingly, though, he was born in San Francisco, and lived in Pacifica for the first year of his life before moving to Washington State, and eventually the south. And while he returns to the Bay Area for the premiere tonight, both his place of birth and home to the team that drafted him, he will be wearing the colors of the team across the bay.Bradford was a submarine-style reliever whose unorthodox delivery helped him pitch parts of 12 seasons in the Major Leagues, including the 2001-2004 campaigns with the Athletics. The transition to a pitching role from his days as an outfielder was not a difficult one for Bond, who was predominantly a pitcher back in high school before a back injury forced him to pursue a career as a hitter.

“I would say it’s a little odd or strange that my ‘Major League debut’ would be in a rival’s jersey,” remarks Bond of his role as an Athletic. “I love the Giants and appreciated that opportunity, but I think anyone would love this opportunity.”

To stay in baseball shape for the role, Bond would go out and throw every day, just as he did in his playing days. Sometimes, if he had no throwing partner, that meant hurling a ball into a chain-link fence at a nearby park in Culver City, where Bond currently lives as he searches for his next part. Even now, after the filming is done, Bond continues to keep his arm strong.

“I stay in baseball shape because my roles require it,” he explains, but admits there is more to it than just that. “I’ll never let that go. Down the line I want to be able to throw a heater to my kid.”

Bond plans to stick with acting for now, but baseball will always be in his blood. (Peter Hurley)

“We had sessions where we would pitch off the mound, do some hitting,” Bond explains. “All I was getting was ground balls, and swings and misses.”He might have some extra motivation to keep his arm in top shape. After learning Bradford’s funky, almost underhand motion upon which his knuckles would sometimes scrape the dirt of the mound, Bond found he was having real success in scrimmage at-bats against other former ballplayers also acting in the film, such as former Giant Royce Clayton.

Might this story, then, come full circle once again? After all, at just 26 Bond is still relatively young, even by baseball’s harsh standards. With less mileage on his arm, he might fit the mold of a pitcher like Matt Yourkin, who did not make the conversion from first base until he was a senior in college, and who only became a starting pitcher for the first time in 2010.

“If someone was interested, I’d be more than happy to go out there and throw for them,” says Bond. “I had other offers from other teams (back in 2009), even to pitch.”

While Bond is focused on his acting career for now, through his own twists of fate he has learned not to rule anything out, to keep his mind open to the different possibilities the future might bring.

“I’m not counting anything out at this point. You never know.”

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