On Your Marc 3/1/16

A coach at the movies

By Marc Katz

Dick Schofield, the new manager of the Dayton Dragons, played with several guys who became Hall of Famers, including Rod Carew, Rickey Henderson and Reggie Jackson.

Derrin Ebert, his pitching coach, played in a movie opposite Brad Pitt.

You decide who had the more glorious experience.

Did I mention Ebert met Pitt’s wife, Angelina Jolie?

Did I tell you Pitt encouraged Ebert to give acting a career shot?

Did I tell you Ebert—who pitched part of 1999 in the major leagues—is first trying to get back there as a coach. His fallback life is acting.

Oh I haven’t told you any of this stuff. I’m just getting started. After all, spring training has barely begun, and you’ll get to meet Ebert anyway, when the Dragons open their season next month.

Ebert’s life is like a bad luck-good luck pendulum swinging furiously back-and-forth in front of his face.

He was an 18th-round draft pick in 1994, a left-hander without a blazing fastball. Still, he was good enough to make it to the majors, but he was with the Atlanta Braves, who had guys like Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Kevin Millwood and Odalis Perez in their starting rotation.

“Those guys went to the post every day,” Ebert says, ticking off the names of some other Braves pitchers who helped keep him in the minors. “They never got hurt. They never needed me. I was a sixth starter sitting in Triple-A.”

He was also a replica of Mike Magnante, who pitched awhile with the Oakland A’s and became a character in a movie.

Although he loved his life as a minor league ballplayer, Ebert had spent 12 years doing that. He was also married and kids were on the way—there are now four, the last two twins.

He returned to school, obtained a teaching degree and that’s what he was doing in Arizona when a buddy from his childhood in Southern California called. The buddy knew the casting director for a new 2011 film, which needed some extra former ballplayers to make everything look realistic.

The film was “Moneyball,” starring Pitt, among others. Ebert played his “what the heck” line, threw four or five pitches off the mound for the casting guy, and three or four weeks later he was at the USC baseball field for the final casting call, playing Magnante.

“Okay, so I go out there,” Ebert says. “I get on the mound and the guy says, ‘I want you to imagine you gave up seven or eight runs this inning. How you going to calm yourself down?’ I just looked at him and said, ‘Have you looked at the back of my baseball card? I’ve done this before.’”

He also asked then USC baseball coach Chad Kreuter if he could break anything in the dugout. He specifically asked if he “could take out the coolers.”

Given the okay, he did, flew home that day, and as he landed, the director said he was sending a script and he had to return in three days.

Playing baseball was nothing like this. Ebert was even able to change the script a little. He was supposed to be in a conversation with his general manager, who was releasing him.

“Look, I’ve been released three times,” Ebert says. “I know what this conversation goes like.”

He made a couple other moves in the scene the director liked and was offered a nine-week contract. He called his school and said he wasn’t returning for the fall semester.

Ebert said he was in four scenes with lines, only one of which made the final cut. Still, it was enough for Pitt to tap him on the shoulder during the premiere in Oakland.

“He says, ‘Dude, you killed it,’” Ebert says. “At the after party, he walked up to me and said, ‘Hey, here’s my assistant’s number. You ought to really think about getting into this. You seem to have a knack for it.’”

So now, here’s Ebert’s choice. He could move to Los Angeles, continue auditioning for movie parts and maybe make it, or he could become an outstanding bartender. That’s when another buddy called saying the Reds had an opening for a coach in their minor league system. Some guys do make a career out of minor league coaching or managing. Some make it back to the majors that way.

“I had 12 years [in minor league ball],” Ebert says. “Now I’m kind of working my way back and possibly being a pitching coach in the big leagues.

“Baseball’s been my life and I’ve invested in it so long. To me the movie was a once in a lifetime experience. I’m not going to say I’ll never go back, but I’m focused on my coaching career.”

He operates a baseball school in the off-season, lives near the Reds’ complex in Goodyear, Arizona, he helps rehab players there and for the last two seasons, has worked under Schofield as pitching coach with the rookie level Billings, Montana, team.

His wife Lacey got to meet Pitt, and Ebert was able to meet Jolie.

One of the roving instructors the Reds use for all their teams is Barry Larkin, the Hall of Fame shortstop.

I don’t know. Who would you rather meet?

 
Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at katzcopsnsports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at
MarcKatz@daytoncitypaper.com.

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Marc Katz
Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at KatzCopsNSports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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