CLEVELAND: Film stars are asked to express their opinions about virtually everything: Krispy Kreme or Dunkin’ Donuts? Chevy Chase or Chevy Camaro? George Bush, Barack Obama or Daniel-Day Lewis?
But Brandon Weeden? If you were the Browns’ general manager, what would you do with Brandon Weeden?
That was the test question for Kevin Costner on Sunday after he took a round of batting practice with the Indians.
Costner has been in Cleveland for weeks filming Draft Day, about a Browns’ draft day, as the title suggests. Costner is a sports fan, and he’s been in town for a while. But should he really be expected to pontificate on the merits of a quarterback with an uncertain future?
“I like him,” Costner said without hesitation. “I think Norv [offensive coordinator Norv Turner] will take some of that unpredictability out. It will be interesting to see what happens.”
Costner aced it.
Upon further reflection, what would you expect of Crash Davis, a pretty smart catcher — albeit a minor leaguer — in Bull Durham, one of Costner’s more iconic movies. As an Academy Award winner, he’s had more than one memorable film.
This is not the first time Costner has been in the Tribe’s clubhouse. During the Indians’ string of division championships in the ’90s, Costner showed up in the locker room, and Kenny Lofton began screaming his name and virtually leaped into his arms.
Costner said he has four friends from Cleveland, and he seems to have fit right in during his current stay here.
Asked if he follows the Tribe, Costner said, “I will now. I’ve seen three or four games, and they’ve won every one of them. I really think this team can win the division.
“I’ve watched a lot of baseball. I’m not putting myself out there [as an expert], but they have a couple of good pieces of DNA. One thing they can do is come from behind. Not every team can. It takes a lot of athletic arrogance to do that. I think if they make up their mind, they can go into somebody else’s gym and beat them up.”
You can tell from his sports-themed films such as Tin Cup, Field of Dreams and Bull Durham that Costner has played sports, at least at the high school level.
“I’ve taken major-league BP eight or nine times,” he said. “I’ve gotten to play in preseason games.”
Then he told this story:
“I’ve played whole games at shortstop with the Angels. I actually pitched one time. It was pretty funny. In Little League, you bring the shortstop in to pitch. In the pros they go to the bullpen. So I’m out there at short, and there’s only one out to go in the game.
“Suddenly, the manager walks out. I’m thinking that somebody wants to pitch. Then he gives me this [crooking his finger to come to the mound]. About 25,000 people are going whoa, but nobody is going whoa more than me.”
Costner asked the umpire to hold his glasses, then the catcher asked, “Do you have a couple of pitches?”
Costner said yes, so everyone was properly briefed.
“The guy puts down one [finger] and I don’t have my glasses on,” Costner said. “I’m not sure what he did. I’m just about to pitch and I’m thinking he [the hitter] knows I’m going to throw a fastball, he just knows I’ll try to get one over. I can’t do that. So I throw a curve for a ball, and the catcher comes running out. “What’s going on? I gave you a one.’ ”
Costner tells him he didn’t see it and devises new signs: slapping one thigh means fastball, slapping the other indicates a curveball.
“I work the count to 2-2, and he takes a third strike,” Costner said. “I’m not sure it was a strike, but it was too close to take. So now the game’s over, but it’s not over. Terry Collins comes out and says, “I want to hit.”
“Collins is the coach. Never seen that in big league game, that it’s nine innings plus one batter. So he grounds out and now the game is over and so is my career.’’
Keep in mind that some year this scene might be replayed at a multiplex near you.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.