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FOR LOVE OF THE GAME

On Location
But then again, it isn't Shot on location in New York (including Yankee Stadium just days after the real Yankees completed their World Series sweep of the Padres) and Los Angeles, For Love of the Game was finally winding down as Christmas approached. Only a few more scenes (including the batting practice session) remained before production would break for the holidays.

Having been at it since October, an air of relaxed familiarity marked the set at the start of the day as cast and crew prepared to tie up the final loose ends and save at least one full day for last-minute Christmas shopping. The morning was bright and crystal clear, but also crisp, with Southern California caught in the midst of a record-setting cold snap.

Dedeaux Field on the USC campus, home of the 1998 College World Series Champions, had been cast as Detroit's Florida spring training site and was resplendent in the morning sun. The freshly repainted outfield scoreboard proudly proclaimed, "Joker Marchant Stadium. Home of the Tigers." Down on the field, Technical Consultant (and preeminent college baseball coach) Augie Garrido warmed up nearly two dozen ballplayer/extras with calisthenics, ground balls and that incessant chatter so characteristic of baseball.

Off by the bullpen, studio publicity reps were setting up to videotape interviews for use in promotional campaigns further down the road.

And up in the pressbox, Costner, director Sam Raimi, producers Armyan Bernstein and Amy Robinson, and executive producer Ron Bozman huddled to go over what remained to be done.

Loose ends and bits of things would consume this last day on a baseball field.

Back on the diamond, at least partly in an effort to keep warm, Garrido continued the Big League workout: infield grounders, double play drills, outfield drills.

The play was sharp...and with good reason. Great care had been taken throughout the filming to ensure the quality. One of the ground rules set by Yankees managing partner George Steinbrenner when the production was filming in New York, was that anyone appearing in a Yankees uniform had to either be an actor, a current or past major league or minor league player. The same standard was applied to the Tigers players.

And even though it was the last day, Garrido still insisted on the same high standards that enabled him to win two College World Series' as coach at Cal State Fullerton. "It was important that we kept a high level of quality, and I have a different sense of authenticities than most people," Garrido added with a smile.

Periodically, one of the drills was filmed; more baseball flavoring for the story. All very efficient, all very workmanlike; because by now everyone, ballplayers and crew alike, had been through the drill so many times it was second nature.

The publicity machine had also kicked into gear, trolling the set for interviews and quickly landing the two main supporting actors: John C. Reilly, who plays "Gus Osinski," Billy's longtime catcher and friend; and Bill Rogers, who portrays "Davis Birch," another friend, former teammate and now the superstar slugger with the Yankees. With video camera rolling, Rogers noted, "It's funny, but even though Davis Birch is a millionaire free agent slugger, it's just as important to the story that he's a family man. Billy's the mature star still living the freewheeling life of a single celebrity athlete, and Davis is the star in his prime with the wife and children that Billy doesn't have. It's a great role, and I feel fortunate that as an unknown I got to work with a megastar like Kevin."

Reilly was also enjoying the day, particularly the relative calm of Dedeaux Field and Los Angeles. Looking back on Yankee Stadium a month or so earli

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