Kevin Costner still loves baseball
By TOM JONES
Times Staff Writer
Kevin Costner is the Oscar-winning director and actor who has been in nearly 50 films, including Dances With Wolves, JFK, The Untouchables and No Way Out. But to sports fans, he is best known for playing Crash Davis in Bull Durham, Ray Kinsella in Field of Dreams and Billy Chapel in For Love of the Game.
Costner’s love affair with baseball has brought him to St. Petersburg, where today he will perform with his band, Modern West, at the Rays’ uniform unveiling in Straub Park.
On Wednesday, Costner took batting practice at Progress Energy Park, and even though it has been 20 years since Bull Durham, the 52-year-old Costner showed he can still rip ’em from both sides of the plate, spraying hard line drives all over the outfield.
Why is it you decided to come down and help out the Rays?
Whenever someone asks me something, I usually take it pretty seriously. You get silly requests and ones you can’t do, but this was a big thing. A franchise seeking to change things and I wanted to be a part of that. … A change is not the worst thing in the world. You saw it with the Bucs when they changed their uniforms.
Have you seen the new uniforms?
What do you think?
I’d like to have one.
You could probably get one with your name on it.
I think we would all like to be able to pull on a uniform.
(Based on BP) you probably could. You can still hit.
I couldn’t get one airborne. … It felt good. A lot of line drives. But I sort of wanted to get one in the air to see where it would go, but I never did.
What is it with you and baseball? Where did that relationship all start?
I was born in the ’50s and loved baseball, like all kids. I remember putting nails in bats when they were broken and using electrical tape to make it all work. And you learn how to place the ball because you’re playing in the street and you can’t hit Old Man Smith’s car. And you couldn’t let a kid who didn’t know how to place it play because he would hit the car and you’d have to stop the game. So my life had these little itty-bitty scenarios. Or your dad saying, ‘‘When the street lights come on, you come home.’’ And when you’re playing as a kid, you just don’t think about it. All of a sudden, here comes your dad and you have to get around him and hurry home. So I always wanted to be a (major-leaguer) and I wasn’t good enough to be one.
But you loved it?
I collected Sports Illustrated and pictures. And it wasn’t just baseball. It was basketball and football. I grew up where you had one basketball and you wouldn’t play near rose bushes. There’s just a certain kind of street sense that you get when you have to make up your own games. … We always did that when I was kid.
Did you have a favorite team or player in any sport?
You take the team where you live. So the Dodgers were my team. (Don) Drysdale and (Sandy) Koufax, (Johnny) Podres and Maury Wills. Those were really nice players and they would find themselves in the World Series. And just like Field of Dreams, you end up liking a team that your dad is not rooting for and I started rooting for the Cardinals. And I saw Lou Brock take over the World Series and I thought he didn’t look like a home run hitter, he didn’t look like anything. It seemed like, though, that no matter when he came up, the other team was in trouble. And he delivered. And (Bob) Gibson was fantastic. And then I hated Detroit because they beat (the Cardinals).
And then you end up playing a guy who pitched for the Tigers inFor Love of the Game.
I know. But I’m just telling you what you hate when you’re a kid. … Your team loses and you’re sick for three or four days. I think about my USC Trojans, as a kid, losing to Ohio State in ’68 and I was sick to my stomach. I’m not that kind of a fan anymore, but as a kid I was.
When you became an actor, did you look for baseball movies or is that just how it evolved?
It evolved. I really just evolved. But I was really happy to be in those movies.
Which of the baseball movies is your favorite?
My favorite to play was Billy Chapel. Just to play a guy looking back at his life and to pitch in Yankee Stadium. And have Vin Scully call your game. And my parents were in that movie. So that movie had a lot of parallels to my life. But I think generally speaking, most people rally around Bull Durham or Field of Dreams. There are kind of two different camps. Interestingly enough, no one argues with the other. It’s not like, "I hate that other movie!’’ It’s a less-filling-tastes-great type of thing.
Watch video here of Costner taking batting practice.
(Pictured - Kevin Costner. Times photo - Willie J. Allen Jr. Click to enlarge.)