Earlier this year I had one of the coolest opportunities of my career. I was invited to spring training to be on the production team shooting the new Homers for Health campaign commercials with the St. Louis Cardinals.
I was so excited and grateful to have this cool opportunity; I was on cloud 9. I didn't think things could get much better until the next day. I got a second phone call that said "Hey, can Rocky come too? We want him to be in one of the commercials with the Cardinals!"
Most of you know Rocky was a very sick baby when he was born. He was in intensive care at Cardinal Glennon hospital for 2 weeks. He was given a 50% chance of survival and after having a stroke at 3 days old they were unsure if he would have lasting brain damage.
As you can tell by the photo above, Rocky grew to be a perfectly healthy 10 year old boy who loves hockey and baseball, and spends his spare time coming up with new ways to irritate his sisters.
He is a great success story for Cardinal Glennon, and they've used him before in brochures, billboards, etc., so he is used to doing fun stuff...but when Rose said "We want him to throw out the first pitch at a game and be in a commercial with the Cardinals," I nearly fell over in the grocery store. It seemed like I blinked and we were on a plane heading to Jupiter Florida.
On game day we were just hanging around waiting for them to announce his first pitch and some very nice man with credentials hanging around his neck walked up and said "Hey kid, come hang out in the dugout with us." I wish I could have seen the look on Jimmy's and my face. As grown ups, we understand far more how cool of an experience that is than he does.
Rocky smiled real big and trotted down the steps into the dugout like he was supposed to be there. Truth be told, he knows some of the players pretty well. I've been working for Homers for Health for 3 years, and aside from that I'm also the lead photographer for Mike Matheny's charity foundation. So Rocky thinks it's pretty normal to hang out with the Cardinals, but dude, hanging out in a dugout before a game goes far beyond any strings that Mom can pull.
Jayon Hayward is new to the team, so Rocky didn't know him. As a matter of fact, Rocky walked right by him twice without asking for an autograph. Jason Heyward is a stud, and has an opportunity to do really big things for us this year, so we really wanted Rocky to get his autograph. My husband and I had to look like those crazy beauty pageant parents who jump around behind the judges' table making facial expressions at their daughters, because we were jumping and frantically waving at Rocky. I started doing sign language for him, holding up two fingers, "22...22..." mouthing as clearly as I could, "Get....Number.....22's.....Autograph!" - And he finally understood what the heck we were saying. Heyward is a big freaking dude...huge. Rocky's face says it all.
I've gotta be honest. This whole day I was a bundle of nerves. I didn't know if I was more nervous about the actual commercial work I had to do later that day, or if I was nervous for Rocky throwing out the first pitch, but the whole day was a blur.
So now it's time for the first pitch. It's not everyday your 10 year old throws a pitch in front of a bench of his heroes and a packed stadium. I was just praying he didn't throw it in the dirt, or not make it to the plate; you know, something that would embarrass him. But I never should have doubted him for a second. He sailed a strike right down the middle...all the way from the regulation mound!
Once that was over I could feel the relief for a moment but then it was time for the real work. We had to shoot 5 commercials in 3 hours. I was the assistant to the lead photographer/videographer, shooting a second camera for b-roll footage. Since I was a lower man on the totem pole I didn't have any real pressure on me, but I still wanted to do a good job.
I'm sure I'm suppose to be listening in this photo, it looks like they are talking about something important, but when you see your husband taking your photo from the stands you gotta cheese out for minute. LOL Even though I've been working with these players for 3 years I will never for a second pretend like it's not a big deal, because it is to me. I will always be geeked out and humbled to hang with these guys and I will always count my blessings that this is what I get to do for a living.
I'm a natural born leader, being the boss is in my blood. However on this shoot I was not the director, not the producer, and certainly no the boss. My job was to be quiet, work hard, move production along and shoot video. Until it came time to cover a topic I'm and expert at...80's dance moves.
There was a line in the commercial for Trevor Rosenthal to say "Stop. Hammer Time," and his instruction was to"do an 80's dance." - However, Trevor was born in 1990. He delivered his line on cue and went into this awful hip swivel - it was like half Elvis and half swatting off a swarm of bees-either way it wasn't pretty... I knew I had to speak up so I just yelled "CUT!" -
"I can't let you do that on television," I said. "Please let me teach you an 80's dance." I literally handed my camera off to someone and taught Trevor the running man. For the record, Adam Wainwright knew the running man as well, so he helped too. Together we at least got him on the right track. Later that night I called my mom to tell her about the shoot, what was your favorite part she asked? "I taught our closing pitcher the running man" I said, with a big smile on my face.
Dance moves aside my real job was running the constant b-roll camera, so most of my footage got turned into the blooper real where you can see Trevor proudly showing off his new dance moves.
And yes, working with these guys is just as fun as it looks.
And finally, here is Rocky's commercial. I am so proud of him. It will be airing all Spring.
Please take a moment to check out the Homers for Health website and consider making a donation. Every bit helps. These players and this organization work their butts off for the kids. But they can't do it with out great donors like you.