Friday, July 30, 2010

"Moneyball" Filming at the Coliseum

What a great experience. Reliving the magical 2002 season, while Hollywood stars roam the Coliseum.

But first, a few negatives: they don't really serve much food. A few of the stands inside the ballpark were open but they mostly served small snack-type foods. You can, however, bring your own food if you choose. Second, because there are rehearsals and several takes being filmed with different camera angles and such, there is a lot of "hurry up and wait," which I'm quite used to from my days in the Army.

I tried to go as vintage as possible with my clothing. I wore a jersey from 2000, which I donned fairly requently from 2000 until 2003. I wore a basic A's hat covered in pins. My ticket holder, which I harnessed with a lanyard around my neck, contained a ticket stub from 2002 (I've literally kept nearly every A's ticket stub since my first game in 1990), plus a 2002 pocket schedule. It's also worth noting that I weigh 35 pounds more than I did eight years ago. Yet, the jersey still fit perfectly. Win!

The scene that was being filmed on this day was a recreation of Game 20 of "The Streak", on September 4, 2002. After running a few takes, it was decided that more people were needed for the Diamond Level seats right behind home plate. Three other friends and I immediately jumped at the opportunity. We walked from our seats in the front of Section 115 (behind home plate, but slightly to the first base side and high above Diamond Level), down to the gate, across the field in front of the backstop (slapping high-fives, exchanging fist-bumps, and shaking hands with some of the actors in uniform), and to our new location within the padded-chair heaven of Diamond Level. We spent the rest of the night there, while those sitting in the main grandstand area had to move several times, depending on what angles the director wanted to shoot the scenes from.

For a good part of the time, the cameras were pointed in our direction; partly filming the action in the batter's box, with crowd (read: our) reactions in the background. Several takes were filmed like that. I won't be surprised of we are in a couple of them when the movie is completed. I will be sorely disappointed if we're not. I may have to ask for my money back. Wait ... what? It was free? Oh, yeah - that's right. Damn, there goes that idea...

It was quite a surreal experience. There they were, on the field: Tim Hudson, Ramon Hernandez, Jermaine Dye, David Justice, Ray Durham, Jeff Tam, Ricardo Rincon, Mark Ellis, John Mabry, Eric Chavez, Randy Velarde, Billy Koch and Terrance Long for the A's; Darrell May, Brent Mayne, Mike Sweeney, Carlos Febles, Carlos Beltran, Joe Randa, Michael Tucker, Neifi Perez, Raul Ibanez, manager Tony Pena, and coach Bob Schaeffer for the Royals. Only they were actors playing those people, wearing absolutely perfect replicas of the uniforms that were worn in 2002. Amazing.

As far as actor resemblances to the players, they're not really all that close. The guy playing Tejada was taller and leaner. Same for the guy playing Ramon Hernandez. John Mabry, in real life, looks a bit like Tom Green. The guy playing Mabry in "Moneyball" looked like neither John Mabry nor Tom Green. As it turns out, Tejada and Mabry are being depicted by a couple of ex-big leaguers. Royce Clayton, who made his debut with the Giants in the 1990s and was a part of the 2004 Red Sox, is playing Tejada, while Mabry is portrayed by former A's pitcher Jason Windsor.

The actor playing Terrence Long looked a lot like Long from a distance, same mannerisms and everything, but once he got closer and you could get a good look at his face, there was no resemblance at all. Marco Scutaro? Why is there someone dressed up as Marco Scutaro? He wasn't on the A's in 2002!

The actor playing Joe Randa is a bit of a jokester. During the rehearsals, he would go to the plate with a different batting stance each time. First he was Kevin Youkilis. Then he was Chuck Knoblauch. The third time around, he assumed a stance that looked similar to Gil McDougald (bat parallel to ground, held waist high). During a break in the action, much later on, the guy playing Michael Tucker stepped into the left-hand batter's box and did a perfect Ken Griffey, Jr. impression — stance, swing, follow-through, the works.

Stadium-wise, the eyesore tarps were off the third deck, a reminder of a Coliseum before Lew Wolff. The out-of-town scoreboard displayed the scores of the games held on September 4, 2002 — replete with "MON" for the since-departed Montreal Expos and "ANA" for since-rebranded Anaheim Angels. The old Fox Sports Net/Cable Channel 40 logo was back on the outfield wall.

At about 8:40, I had to use the restroom. A couple of others had the same idea at the exact same time. We were told to use the A's dugout restroom. Sure enough, there is a door near the water faucet that opens into a small, one-toilet restroom, which I had never noticed before. I'd been going to the Oakland Coliseum for 20 years and had never stepped foot into either dugout. Despite being 32 years old, I felt like an awestruck kid.

At one point two of the "umpires" strolled casually in front of the backstop. We booed them — in jest of course — and one of them reciprocated by firing off a comically-exaggerated ejection gesture. Good times.

Jonah Hill and Brad Pitt both made apperances on the field in between takes. On two occasions, Hill took the microphone and spoke to the crowd, thanking us for coming out and being supportive of their work. I'm sure he'll be a pretty good Paul DePodesta, but I can't help but wonder how Demetri Martin, who was originally slated to play the role, would have done it. Martin, who was once a regular on "The Daily Show" and currently has his own program, "Important Things with Demetri Martin", is one of my favorite comedians.

If you're planning on being a "Moneyball" extra, keep in mind, you are absolutely forbidden to bring cameras. I was able to smuggle one in by placing it in my jacket pocket and carrying the jacket. But there were too many security/crowd control types roaming around and I wasn't about to get it confiscated. I did take several cell-phone camera shots (which is actually forbidden, too - but you can disguise that pretty easily).

Also, make sure to bring your own pen. You will have to sign a couple of release forms while standing in the registration line. I suppose you can wait until you get to the table at the front of the line and use a pen there, but is it really worth tying up the entire line?

During the latter part of the filming, the guy portraying Tim Hudson had to leave. Not sure why. Injury? Anyway, he stripped off his jersey and gave it to the actor who was playing Jeff Tam. Twenty minutes earlier, a scene was shot involving Jeff Tam (he had entered the game for Ricardo Rincon — the script called for the cameras to follow Rincon to the dugout as Tam mysteriously appeared out of thin air on the mound). Then, after the Tam footage was shot, the director decided to jump back to an earlier point in the game and film another scene involving Tim Hudson — only by this time, the jersey had changed hands and now Jeff Tam was Tim Hudson. Not sure how that'll come out in the final product. Weird.

We left not long after that — it was getting close to 11:00 pm, the temperature was dropping, and a nice warm house did seem inviting.

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