Striding up to the plate with a plan to swing and not hit the ball was, obviously, somewhat unusual for Ben Zobrist. But it was all part of an interesting experience in his role in the new feature-length film Ring the Bell. • Zobrist plays himself in the baseball-and-faith-themed move, which was recently released straight to DVD and has been selling briskly at Wal-Mart and elsewhere. • "It was fun," Zobrist said. "Certainly a neat experience." • Zobrist appears, and has multiple lines, in three scenes, all shot during one spring 2012 day in DeLand.
In one, he's hitting against a former phenom, played by actor/former minor-leaguer Casey Bond, a friend who got him involved in the film, taking a few big swings before blasting a scene-ending homer.
The other two required a bit more "acting" — sitting at a table talking with a group that includes former big-leaguers John Kruk and Rick Sutcliffe, and showing his faith by joining others in ringing the bell hanging from a tree.
Even though Zobrist plays baseball before crowds of up to 50,000, and has been on stage when his singing wife, Julianna, does concerts, he said what made moviemaking different was working with the cast and crew around him.
"You have to be on your game to be able to do that; I didn't realize how involved it was, the timing and delivery of your lines," Zobrist said. "It takes a lot of practice to be natural, and it's hard to do that when there's cameras and people all around waiting for you to deliver whatever you're supposed to."
Zobrist said he did pretty well with his lines, that the only re-takes were for camera angles and how he hit. "It actually was a lot easier for me to swing and miss than it was for me to hit that final home run," he joked.
Bond, whose acting career includes a role in Moneyball, said Zobrist did well in making the inspirational movie a success.
"I'd spent a lot of time with Ben working out in Nashville and knew he was a great guy, perfect for the film and the message it's bringing," Bond said. "I just told him, 'Be yourself, be Ben on camera.' "
Zobrist, who had previously appeared in the short film Snake, said he'd be up for future acting gigs. And Bond said he could have a future in it. "I think he can do whatever he wants to do," Bond said. "He's such a talented guy."
Now starring … Rays
(Devil) Rays have had roles, big and small, in several other video projects:
The Disney-fied story of pitcher Jim Morris, who made his big-league debut for the Devil Rays at age 35.
For Love of the Game
Ex-Devil Rays pitcher Dave Eiland body-doubled for star Kevin Costner.
Carlos Peña and Chad Bradford, who would later be Rays, are among those represented.
The Josh Hamilton Story
In the planning stages, with Casey Affleck involved.
3B Evan Longoria, LHP David Price, manager Joe Maddon have appeared in national TV commercials. … 3B coach Tom Foley is the batter striking out against Dwight Gooden in Bruce Springsteen's Glory Days video. … Former Ray Wade Boggs was in the TV movie Swamp Shark and an episode of Psych. … Hitting coach Derek Shelton has a cable TV commercial for the Speed Hitter training device.
Condolences to the family of Gerry Ramsberger, who for many years was a great help, and a great friend, in the Trop press box. … Total attendance for the four-game series with Toronto was 43,279. Monday's gathering of 9,952 wasn't even the smallest in the majors that day (Cleveland, 9,514) and larger than two 2012 Rays "crowds." … How's this for a quick turnaround: Next Sunday the Rays play a 1:35 p.m. game in Baltimore and the next day play a 1:07 p.m. game in Toronto. … In the first of several mock drafts advancing the June 6-8 real deal, Baseball America has the Rays taking Fresno State OF Aaron Judge 21st and Gonzaga LHP Marco Gonzales 29th. … Curious, at least, that principal owner Stuart Sternberg attended the Tampa chamber luncheon but couldn't make the St. Petersburg/Clearwater one. … Max Eaton, son of team orthopedist Koco, committed to play basketball at Bates College in Maine. … Video gamers threw 123 perfect games with cover boy David Price in the MLB2K13 challenge and 169 overall with Rays pitchers (second most of any team); Charles Shechtman (Northridge, Calif.) had the highest score with Alex Cobb. … The Marlins, in the second season of their new stadium, are closing the upper deck for at least some games.
Got a minute? Josh Lueke
Best meal you can make? I cook a mean deer steak (venison), though my wife does all the sides.
Must-see TV? Right now it's Bones. We watched Friends in the offseason.
Band you'd like to be on stage with? Florida Georgia Line right now.
Favorite movie? Full Metal Jacket — I love Sgt. Hartman's motivational speech.
Celebrity crush? Jennifer Aniston.