Tagged: Moneyball

Following Up With Casey Bond

Casey Bond hit a home run in his first at-bat when it comes to acting in a major film. Portraying former Major League pitcher Chad Bradford, Bond was among a cast and crew that has been nominated for six Academy Awards for their work on the movie, “Moneyball.”

The Grizzlies first talked to Bond before the movie was released, but with the award season in full throttle, Bond was nice enough to take the time to discuss what is new since the movie debut.

(He also spoke with MiLB.com blogger buddy Ben Hill here.)

Casey Bond as Chad Bradford

Casey Bond on the set of "Moneyball," portraying former Oakland A's pitcher Chad Bradford.

Yard Work: We ended the last post wondering what the future may bring for you. So, what is new?

Casey Bond: So far 2012 has had a great start with all these awards. I am auditioning for some small things and working on producing an independent film. Producing is a part of industry that I wanted to dive into as it will allow me to take ownership of the work. I will be able to act and produce in a piece that is pretty close to me.

YW: How did you find out “Moneyball” was nominated for six Oscars?

CB: I knew the day they would be released but not the exact time. So, I woke up to text messages, emails and Twitter messages from all sorts of people telling me about the great news.

We heard all the Oscar buzz and with the momentum from the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards, we were eager to learn about the nominations. I can’t even describe, though, how it feels. It’s a great start and I could not be more thankful.

YW: Have you heard from Chad Bradford to see what he thought about your performance acting as him?

CB: I have not met Chad in person, but I did first talk to him a couple of weeks prior to filming. I contacted a mutual friend and said, “You are not going to believe this, but is there any way I can get [Chad Bradford’s] phone number and talk to him?”

He also ended up calling me right after he saw the movie and said, “Man, great job.” I was encouraged to hear him say I did well.

Chad ended up being just a great guy and so willing with his time. I’m representing a real person, and it is very important for me to talk to him. Next time I am in Jackson, Mississippi [Bradford’s hometown], I plan on meeting up with him.

YW:What is going through your head when you watch yourself on the big screen in a baseball movie after growing up dreaming of playing in the big leagues one day?

Casey Bond

Former Giants farmhand Casey Bond, now currently an actor, awaits a pitch in a Minor League game (Bill Mitchell).

CB: Anytime you put hard work into something and see the result and others encourage you, it is awesome. We got our first taste of an audience reaction at the Toronto Film Festival. After the film ended, we received a standing ovation, which was phenomenal. Ever since the movie came out, I have talked to people I haven’t heard from in a long time. All the words of encouragement made this process that much more special.

YW: What are some similarities between being a professional baseball player and being an actor?

CB: The biggest thing is the mental preparation. It directly translates from athletics to the acting world. Auditions can be very spur of the moment, like opportunities or plays in baseball. Baseball is a game filled with failures, such as getting one hit in your four at-bats, and acting has its own failures as well. Not succeeding on the baseball field on a given day created a mental strength.

YW: Who has been your biggest influence in your new career?

CB: It comes down to great parents. They have been great supporters. Another important person has been my first college coach, Brian Schoop, at Birmingham-Southern College. First of all, our team was not just a team, but brothers. Coach Schoop established that family-like culture, and it brought another kind of strength to you. We learned how to face adversity together, and I draw upon my experiences from Birmingham-Southern often.

If you would like to learn more about what Casey is up to, check out his website at www.thecaseybond.com (caseybond.com was already taken). Or you can follow him on Twitter (@CaseyBond) and check out his Facebook page.

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.”

On Life, Baseball, and a Decade of Introspection

By: Noah Frank

If you’ve spent any significant time on the internet, reading newspapers, watching television, or simply existing in the world outside of your home the past week, you have no doubt been subjected to countless rehashings and reduxes of this generation’s national tragedy, as everyone from the President to Al Michaels gave his or her two cents regarding the events that took place in New York, Washington and a field in Pennsylvania 10 years ago. For whatever reason, be it altruistic or self-serving, many people, especially those in the public eye, feel the need to tell the world what that day meant to them. Hopefully this tale will help in the way in which those are intended, by providing perspective on where we were then, where we are now, and how we can continue to learn and grow from the hardships in each of our lives.

Ten years ago, I was working my first baseball job. A lowly intern, just graduated from high school in the Bay Area, I had no idea how lucky I was to be working for my hometown team, the Oakland Athletics. While the Seattle Mariners were running away with the American League West on their way to an astonishing 116 wins that season, a very solid Oakland team got even stronger with the acquisition of Jermaine Dye from the Kansas City Royals shortly before the trade deadline. That team would go on to win 102 games and the American League Wild Card, earning a rematch with the Evil Empire, the hated New York Yankees, who had ended the upstart Athletics’ season in the opening round of the playoffs the year prior.

As the regular season wound towards its conclusion, I began preparing to leave the house for the first time, my freshman year at UC Santa Barbara to begin in late September. In my third-to-last day of scheduled work with the team, the A’s jumped out to an early six-run lead to back Barry Zito, who took a shutout into the ninth in an easy, 7-1 win over the visiting Texas Rangers. After transcribing some post-game quotes, I headed home as I always did, winding my way north from Oakland, around the mouth of the Caldecott Tunnel and through the Berkeley hills to my parents’ house, another night in the books.

With air travel shut down, there would be no baseball.

Little did I know, but there would be no final two days of work. I awoke, as many on the west coast did that Tuesday morning, to frantic relatives, to confused silence in front of images of a smoking building, to a second plane hitting the second tower, and to my country’s perceptions, politics and fears shifting forever. Most of the final parts of the fallout came later, not instantly within the moment. I was still prepared to go to work that day, but I never did. Nobody did. For reasons that I suppose I understand more now than I did then but still fail to fully accept, there would be no baseball for the time being (it would turn out to be a week). Everything was suddenly on hold— oh, and by the way, enjoy your freshman orientation.

So, off I went to college. I remember the first moment in which I began to feel normal again was watching the team in Game 1 of the ALDS on television in Isla Vista, when my A’s rolled into Yankee Stadium and conquered Roger Clemens. I began, slowly, to reconnect. Another road win in Game 2 and, suddenly, they were coming home with two chances to put the Bronx Bombers away. Still, it felt somewhat distant, somewhat remote. I wasn’t able to see anything in person, as I had all season. It was closer to watching events like those that had unfolded a couple of weeks prior, through the television.

Then came Game 3. Nearly all of that game is forgotten to most, save one play, the gravity of which I think is sometimes lost in the annals of baseball history. Prior to that play, in the top of the fifth, Jorge Posada had deposited a ball on top of the out-of-town scoreboard in left-center field, one of the shortest home runs available to hitters in a normally pitcher-friendly Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. That was the only run of the game as the contest entered the bottom of the seventh. Then, with two outs, Jeremy Giambi poked a single to right field, and was standing at first when Terrence Long pulled a Mike Mussina offering into the right-field corner. Giambi— who was not the slowest

Safe or out, it doesn't matter now. (Sports Illustrated)

man in the American League, thanks to Bengie Molina— thundered around second and third, chugging for home as the potential game-tying run. Shane Spencer’s throw from right field missed cut-off man Tino Martinez, and was bouncing slowly towards home plate, losing momentum with every hop. Suddenly, Derek Jeter appeared out of the ether, more than 100 feet out of position, gathered the ball with his mitt, transferred it seamlessly to his open hand, and flipped it to the catcher Posada, who slapped the tag on the back of Giambi’s knee immediately after the outfielder crossed home plate.

Of course, that last part is open to discussion. All that matters is that home plate umpire Kerwin Danley called Giambi out, as baseball’s rulekeepers are wont to do when a defender makes a spectacular play. Anyone who works in baseball will tell you: the tie, most certainly, does not go to the runner. The A’s never recovered, losing that game and the final two of the series, as the Yankees went on to what seemed to be a predestined World Series appearance, dispatching that 116-win Mariners team in just five games in the ALCS.

But the title would not come. The team that had won three straight World Series, and four in five years, was beaten in the unlikeliest of ways. It wasn’t the story it should have been. It was far better.

When the Yankees beat Arizona Diamondbacks closer Byung-Hyung Kim not once, but twice with game-tying or game-winning blasts at the Stadium, it seemed almost inevitable, a foregone conclusion, that this series would be theirs. Sure enough, they led Game 7, 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth. With the ball in the trusted right hand of the greatest closer in the history of the game, the Hollywood ending was undone by players who the average baseball fan has probably forgotten: Jay Bell, Tony Womack and Luis Gonzalez. With a couple hits, a timely error, and a

It wasn't pretty off the bat, but this Luis Gonzalez basehit won the World Series.

jam-shot floater that drifted heroically over the outstretched mitt of, fittingly, a leaping Derek Jeter at shortstop, the Diamondbacks saved baseball from a scripted fate, giving the rest of America the greatest World Series in years, decades, maybe ever. With all due respect to the ’91 Twins and the ’86 Mets, it was certainly the most electrifying Series since Bill Mazeroski beat— who else— the New York Yankees with a home run in Game 7 all the way back in 1960.

I remember feeling that the burden that was lifted as the Yankees lost was almost as fulfilling as a championship for the A’s would have been. I can’t honestly say that I knew it at the time, but there was certainly the sense that this was the end of the Yankee dynasty, of a half-decade of dominance in the sport, the spawning of a new age of baseball. Yes, New York had suffered from 9/11, but there was almost a self-righteousness to New Yorkers’ ownership of the event, as if the other two planes were less significant, as if the rest of the country was not as deeply affected by the events. It is the same smugness that leads many of us around the rest of the country to our general distaste for many things associated with our nation’s largest city.

Ironically, it was the nation of fans coming together to celebrate the defeat of the quintessential New York team that sent off celebrations and led to a marked feeling of relief, personally. The good guys had not won, but neither had the bad guys, and sometimes that was good enough.

Still, I had become disenchanted, to a degree, about the idea of a career in professional sports. What difference did it all make in the grand scheme of things, if people I’d never met, who knew nothing of my life my beliefs, could send planes crashing into buildings based on some misguided ideological principles and bring it all to a halt? While I had experienced my baseball catharsis, I had never gotten the chance to mend professionally.

As such, I did not become involved in baseball again on a professional level until 2008, three years after I had graduated from college. It wasn’t until I had the chance to see the working world first hand once again that I fully understood the value in professional sports, that the outlet they provided was more than just a simple, temporary escape, but a way for us to come together as cities, and even as a nation.

Nevertheless, it is not inappropriate to ask another question after the last ten years: has baseball learned anything? The sport has enjoyed nine different champions in the last 10 years, but for every small market playoff success story like Oakland, Tampa Bay, or Minnesota, there is a lack of progress in the real issues of the differences between the haves and the have-nots. Baseball is beautiful because it rewards those able to outsmart over those who simply outspend, but only to a certain degree.

Ten years later, Moneyball may have worked better for the rest of baseball than it has in Oakland.

It is bit bizarre that Moneyball— the story of the haves, the have-nots, and the evolution of baseball’s front offices as a result of those Oakland teams I was privileged to be a part of— makes its way to the big screen as the pennant races heat up. Of course, the Yankees still own the biggest payroll and best record in the American League, while Oakland is coming off a disappointing season that leaves A’s in a perpetual state of rebuilding, still waiting for a decision from Major League Baseball that will allow them to seek a more prosperous future.

Until then, the A’s (as well as the Tampa Bay Rays and others) will rebuild; they will make do with what they can. Their motto— Green Collar Baseball— is akin to Oakland native Van Jones’ Green Collar Economy. It’s a play on words, sure, but also more than that. It is a different way of looking at a team and trying to measure success by building something sustainable. Meanwhile, the men in pinstripes, the mark of bankers and other money men, continue to try to outspend in order to succeed.

Then, of course, there is the issue of steroids. We watched some of the great players of our generation dragged into courtrooms in the twilights of their careers. Gone were the fearsome sluggers, effortlessly swatting roundtrippers out of ballparks across the country, replaced by broken, hunched over shells of those titans, nearly unrecognizable.

Alas, we cannot change the free-market nature of baseball. But, thankfully, the sabermetric movement has broken through in the sport, and those who cling desperately to out-of-date methods and analysis are dying out. At the same time, we reconcile that the accomplishments of our larger-than-life heroes— McGwire, Bonds, et. al— were not as glorious as we may have originally thought them to be. But they were still great players, and we will continue to be able to enjoy watching the very best in the sport now, and into the future.

We cannot go back and change our tainted past. We can only hope to learn to learn from our mistakes, to forgive, but not forget. By remembering what went wrong, hopefully we can educate the next generation to avoid our same mistakes. Sometimes it’s more important to fight the good fight than to achieve certain victory. For even in the individual victories of a single game, or a division race, or even the World Series, life always goes on. And hence, following our great losses, there is always hope for the future, in baseball and in life.