Exclusive Interview with Director Jonathan Hock for ‘FASTBALL’

– by Gig Patta

The most respected and feared pitch in baseball is definitely the fastball.

Every major league pitcher strives to perfect the fastball and every pitcher has the fastball pitch in their repertoire. Only a few can have the bragging rights to throw more than 100 miles per hour or even to have the fastest fastball ever.

In Jonathan Hock’s documentary FASTBALL, it explores baseball’s favorite pitch by attempting on who may have the fastest fastball in history from the perspective of the scientific community and the past/present famous baseballs players who tried to hit or to throw that pitch.

Some of the interviews include Justin Verlander, David Price, Derek Jeter, Hank Aaron, Nolan Ryan, Bob Gibson and more great players trying to push their perspective on the fastball. The documentary is narrated by Kevin Costner. 

FASTBALL will be in select theaters and on-demand this Friday, March 25. Also check out certain shows on Tugg events by clicking here.

Check out the full interview below.

Latino-Review: Thanks for speaking with me. Let’s start off with the easy question—where did you get the idea from?

Jonathan Hock: The idea came from Thomas Tull, who is the chairman of Legendary Pictures. They made THE DARK KNIGHT, INCEPTION, and 42, the Jackie Robinson movie. He is a lover of baseball. This is something that is very, very dear to him.

I got a phone call one day from Thomas Tull who said, “I’ve seen your work and I have an idea for baseball documentary. I want to make a film about the fastball.” So I said, “Sure!” You don’t say no to Thomas Tull as a documentary filmmaker. Then as I hung up the phone, I said to myself, “What in the world is a phone about the fastball?”

We eventually met and talked about it. What we really wanted to do was to find all the magic of baseball—the history, happenings today and everything we loved about the game—past and present. So it’s seen through the lenses of 396 milliseconds, which is a 100 miles per hour fast ball to reach home plate.

It was a two-year process by interviewing 20 Hall of Famers. There were a lot of current All-Stars. It was the most fun I’ve head.

Latino-Review: Since you’ve interviewed so many people—what was the consensus from these people over the fastest fastball?

Jonathan Hock: I would say that there wasn’t a single person who got the majority of the votes. But, the names you’ve heard most often were Nolan Ryan, Bob Feller and Walter Johnson. These are the three pitchers with one going all the way back to the turn of the twentieth century. Walter Johnson was the first man to be called with the fastest fastball man alive. He was also the first pitcher to have his pitch timed scientifically in 1912.

Forty years later, Bob Feller came along and people said that here’s a guy who was faster than Walter Johnson. Then thirty years later, Nolan Ryan came along and now HERE’s the guy with the fastest fastball. Now today, you have all these guys throwing at 100 in which every team has one of two of these fastball pictures.

On what we did and what people enjoyed the most about the film was that we took the data taken scientifically in history of baseball and brought it the head of the physics department at the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Dr. Gregg Franklin ran all the data for us. He compared all the information on where the pitches were timed and at what point they were timed. So he determined on who was the fastest pitcher of all-time. That’s one of the highlights of the film trying to figure that out.

Latino-Review: Coincidentally, I’m a baseball fan. I’m very interested in all of this. But, how do you make a documentary exciting for non-baseball people? What would the formula be that you would sought after?

Jonathan Hock: I’ve made a number of documentaries about sport subjects for ESPN 30 for 30 and others. The thing is that you really never make the film about sport. The film is about the people. Imagine if you’re making a war movie, you’re not making a film about the strategies of the generals of on how the war is progressing. It’s about the people who got caught up in the war. You are certainly showing the war in the movie. That’s not the key or what people are moved by as they go to the movie theater.

With FASTBALL, it’s the same idea. We don’t just make a movie about fast pitches and big hits. Baseball fans would’ve liked it, but they may end up as the only ones. On what we did was that we dug in a little deeper and found the universal human emotions. It’s the things that get people passionate about the game. It boils down to the primal battle between a man with a rock and a man with the stick. That is the pitcher and the batter.

You strip away the specifics of the game and reduce it to the human struggle that becomes with any great story. It’s the people with goals. It’s the people with dreams. It’s the people sharing something with teammates. Then there are the victories and defeats.

It’s all about the inhuman activities that we have to do while we don’t have to do. Why do people paint? Why do people climb mountains? Why do people fall in love? All these things are in baseball. We just reduced all those things down to the 396 milliseconds over the 60 feet and 6 inches. We used that as a platform to tell a story.

Latino-Review: Now you’ve recruited Kevin Costner to be the narrator. Talk about on why he’s perfect for your documentary.

Jonathan Hock: Just the sound of his voice sounds like baseball. With all the great baseball movies he’s done, BULL DURHAM and FIELD OF DREAMS are one about a baseball player and the other about fathers and sons. Those are landmark baseball movies. Then of course, he also played a pitcher who threw a no-hitter in FOR LOVE OF THE GAME.

He brought a lot of the first-hand knowledge to the game. It’s the sound of his voice like the famous speech he gave in BULL DURHAM about the small of the woman’s back. He could just talk to you about the simple things of baseball, but it becomes more than that with what he had done as an actor. We were making a film not just strictly about the baseball games. We were making a film about the human endeavor. We felt his voice was the perfect one to bring that out.

Thomas Tull worked with Kevin before when he played Superman’s father in MAN OF STEEL. That’s how we got Kevin and we were really, really appreciative of the amazing job we did in the film.

Latino-Review: I got all teary-eyed when you use the footage of Ernie Banks and Tony Gwynn in the documentary. Are those old archive footages or did you managed to sit down with those two great legends?

Jonathan Hock: The first thing we’ve filmed was that Hall of Fame footage with Tony Gwynn, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench and George Brett. They were sitting in the rotunda with all the Hall of Fame plaques. Tony was feeling okay at that point and about eight or nine months later that we lost him. We were so glad that we were able to have that time with him. He was such a beloved figure in the game.

Of course, with Ernie Banks, the weekend after that we filmed interviews with a number of Hall of Famers who were gathered in Cooperstown. Ernie was one of them. Talk about a legend. The very first baseball bat I owned was an Ernie Banks signature bat. It was such an honor to talk to him at the time. We didn’t know he was ill at the time. He passed away a year after we filmed him.

We dedicated the film to their memories at the end of the documentary. We had a great pleasure and honor to be spending time with those guys. For me as a baseball fan to spend a couple of hours talking with Nolan Ryan, Goose Gossage and Hank Aaron are really, really amazing experiences.

Thomas [Tull] told me in a conversation is that we shouldn’t think this film is about the fastest pitch, but a film in which parents with their kids could pull out the DVD every spring training to watch together and remind ourselves on why we love this game so much. This story should still be good fifty years from now. That’s why we had to talk to every person in this film. We talked to twenty Hall of Famers and maybe ten future Hall of Famers. We talked to Derek Jeter, Justin Verlander, Craig Krimbrel and even David Price, who is amazing.

Hopefully, people who watch the film will really enjoy spending 82-minutes with these people talking with such passions into this amazing thing we loved called baseball. And for those who are not baseball fans can sit to watch with us can say, “Ah. Now I understand on why you loved this so much.”

FASTBALL will be in select theaters and on-demand this Friday, March 25. Also check out certain shows on Tugg events by clicking here.

Source: Latino-Review

Interviews, Film, LRM Exclusives Jonathan Hock, Fastball, Kevin Costner