In belated honor of Memorial Day (sorry Canadians!) . . .
Chad Harbach wrote a “Great American Novel” about America’s pastime. Or, at least he wrote “a big American novel of the old school” that has been very well-received. Now, The Art of Fielding is going to be made into an HBO series.
That fact, to me, begs the question: Who will play the parts of the main characters?
While a couple of my previous posts have addressed which actors would play which players in the not-yet-for-real MLB: The Movie, I thought it might be more interesting this time around to consider which players are best suited to play the characters in the novel.
Mike Schwartz: Schwartzy is a bulky catcher who grows a beard. He’s intensely motivational, more the coach of the Westish Harpooners than the actual coach. He’s not the best player, but he pulls his weight, and he makes other players on the team reach their potential, and keeps them motivated. He’s also addicted to painkillers.
Because I cannot go a day without googling Mike Napoli, he’s the first one that sprung to mind here. But while Nap-Dogg is a good body comp for Schwartzy (bulky, bearded catcher), he doesn’t match up with the character’s character: that of a motivational manager-in-waiting. Then, after googling “most selfless player baseball,” I kicked myself, because the first player to pop up (after an ironic reference to Alex Rodriguez) was Jason Varitek (also a bearded catcher), of whom Curt Schilling said, “In my 23 years of professional baseball I never played with or against a more selfless and prepared player….” That’s Schwartzy in a nutshell.
Henry Skrimshander: Henry’s the preternaturally-gifted but initially-scrawny shortstop who Schwartz hand-picks and turns into an impeccably fit baseball machine. He idolizes the fictional Aparicio Rodriguez, a Hall of Fame shortstop that is probably based on equal parts Luis Aparicio and Ozzie Smith. Even when he bulks up he’s skinny, and he’s known for his shaggy blonde hair and his childlike love of the game — but when his lifelong errorless streak is finally ended, Henry becomes debilitated by a newfound self-awareness that he can’t escape.
Owen Dunne: As readers, we know from his first appearance that Owen is lithe, detail-oriented, and gay. We also soon find out that Owen is very intelligent, self-composed, and quick-witted, attributes that earn him the nickname “Buddha.” He’s mostly a bench-warmer, but one gets the sense that he could be more if he didn’t read in the dugout during games and was on the team for more than just the experience of being on the team.
If nothing else, Owen probably has the body type and sartorial sensibility of Ichiro, and Ichiro seems like a pretty intelligent player (even if he’s never drawn many walks, haha). Given Ichiro’s penchant for profane and nearly nonsensical pre-All-Star pep talks, I’m not sure how well he matches with Owen calm, almost aloof demeanor, but, after a big victory, Owen does dance freely on the locker room bench and say to Schwartzy, “I’m wearing my hat askew.” Imagining Ichiro do that and say that phrase is enough to convince me that he’s the only one for this role.
Adam Starblind: He’s not a main character, but he’s the second most talented player on the team after Henry (he’s the team’s ace), and figures into the success/failure of the team pretty prominently. As a character he has enough depth to consider for this exercise: he’s confident and competitive but also fun-loving—and he “gets around.”
That’s all. Please tune in tomorrow: whatever I write is sure to bore you into psychosis once again.