Casey Bond's professional baseball career ended in 2009, when he was released by the San Francisco Giants organization just prior to the start of the season. But unbeknownst to anyone at the time, he had still yet to play in front of his biggest audience.
For Bond will soon be seen on the big screen, acting opposite Hollywood A-listers Brad Pitt, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Jonah Hill in the anticipated film adaptation of Moneyball, Michael Lewis' game-changing exploration of general manager Billy Beane's Oakland Athletics. Bond plays the role of Chad Bradford, an unorthodox submarine reliever who was a crucial member of the 2002 A's ballclub chronicled in the film.
For the 26-year-old Bond, the role is the most prominent of an ascendant acting career, one that has proceeded with startling rapidity since his forced exit from the world of Minor League Baseball. And, if all goes according to plan, it's a path he plans to travel on for many years to come.
One thing leads to another
Though Bond has always had an interest in acting, it was not an endeavor he pursued while growing up in the Atlanta suburb of Peachtree City, Ga. Sports -- particularly baseball -- occupied his time, and he went on to play at Birmingham's Southern College and Nashville's Lipscomb University before being drafted as an outfielder by San Francisco in the 25th round of the 2007 Draft. He made his professional debut in the Arizona League that season and spent 2008 with the Class A Short-Season Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, hitting .246 with 15 stolen bases over 68 games.
The '08 campaign ended with a one-game call-up to Triple-A Fresno, but that was an end-of-season anomaly as opposed to a sign of things to come. Just weeks before the start of the 2009 campaign, the Giants informed Bond of his release from the organization. Rather than shop his services to a new team, Bond took a leap of faith and instead decided to pursue acting as a full-time occupation.
"I took a hold of the situation and made some strong decisions," recalled Bond, speaking Tuesday from Los Angeles. "I had some offers to continue to play professionally but decided to [pass on] those. There was another opportunity in front of my face, and it seemed like it'd be almost unfair to myself not to do something with it."
Bond's acting opportunity came about as a result of a series of fortuitous events. He had just taken his first acting classes in Nashville, as a way to pass the time and learn something new while training for the 2009 baseball season. He told his great aunt, a former actress, about his new hobby, and this led her to get him in touch with an agent she knew. The agent arranged an audition for a national One-A-Day Men's Vitamins ad and, improbably, Bond landed the gig.
"I looked at it as a sign from above, that a change was happening, and it was a welcome change," said Bond, who moved from Nashville to Los Angeles after landing the gig. "I love baseball, but I love a lot of other things too and this was a great opportunity to explore them."
The vitamin commercial automatically landed Bond membership within the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), which helped pave the way for more commercials as well as a role as the "Handsome Handyman" on the A&E reality show Gene Simmons Family Jewels. Steady progress, to be sure, but hardly the kind of resume likely to result in a major motion picture role. Nonetheless, after six months in Los Angeles, Bond was asked to audition for the part of Chad Bradford.
"I had to do real acting before there was any baseball involved," he said. "First I read for the casting director and then I got a call-back and read for Bennett Miller, the director. It was only then that they wanted to see if I could play baseball, too. And for whatever reason, I could do [Bradford's] submarine [delivery] really well."
"It made me wonder if that's what I should have been doing in the first place," he added, laughing.
Learning from the best
While waiting to hear if he had gotten the part, Bond did a little research. During his playing days, Bond had often worked out with Ben Zobrist of the Tampa Bay Rays, a teammate of Bradford's in 2008-09. Zobrist put the two in touch, so that Bond could get some insight from the man himself.
"Chad called me, and we talked for an hour so that I could learn what kind of person he is, his mental approach, the type of guy he was in the clubhouse, just everything that I could gather," said Bond. "He was a guy from southern Mississippi, a Christian guy, who played baseball. I knew the mentality and didn't have too much trouble relating."
The final step in Bond's audition process was simply to have a one-on-one meeting with Brad Pitt, to ensure that the two would have chemistry in their scenes together. Pitt plays the role of Oakland general manager Billy Beane in the film, an iconoclastic thinker specializing in obtaining under-valued and off-the-radar players such as Bradford.
"Playing professional sports was a great preparation tool for everything I'm doing now, because you get to meet a lot of amazing people," said Bond. "Meeting Brad Pitt was cool, don't get me wrong, but he's just another human -- a professional guy and a real hard worker."
The meeting went well, and Bond got the part. During the movie's eight weeks of filming, he was in scenes with Pitt as well as stars such as Hill (who plays A's assistant general manager Paul DePodesta) and Hoffman (A's manager Art Howe).
"I'm still fresh to acting, always learning new things all the time, and Brad Pitt was a wonderful mentor," said Bond. "For example, we were filming a scene and after the first take I was going to go take a look at the playback [video]. ... Brad took me by the shoulder and said 'Don't look at the first take, it'll screw you up every time.' He doesn't have to do that, he's Brad Pitt! But those sort of things were very helpful, another stepping stone in the process of becoming an actor."
Bond also praises the film's baseball scenes, which were primarily shot at night in the Oakland Coliseum. Other former baseball professionals in the film include shortstop Royce Clayton as Miguel Tejada and pitcher Derrin Ebert as Mike Magnante, as well as a variety of Minor League and collegiate players serving as extras.
"Watching films like Major League, there are scenes where you're like, 'That guy just hit a pop-up, and they showed it as a home run!'" he said. "But on this film, the guys involved were truly good baseball players, and that's going to show up onscreen. I haven't seen anything else that can stand up to it, in that regard."
But Bond has yet to see the finished Moneyball product, which is being kept tightly under wraps until its world premiere Sept. 9 in Toronto.
"You never really know until the day of the premiere, but [Bradford] was prominent in the book, in the script and in the trailer, so my hopes are high that they've left a lot of good stuff in there," he said.
In the meantime, Bond is doing promotional work for the film and, like all actors everywhere, hustling for that next gig.
"I'm always auditioning," he said. "I've been fortunate to land a few more commercials and a lot of print work, and I'm still waiting to hear back on some things. I'm using Moneyball as a real momentum builder, and if a lot of people go out and see it, that'll help even more."