Celebrity Interviews Pop Culture News

Johnathon Schaech Bottles Orioles Magic With Rick Dempsey’s ‘Caught Stealing’


Johnathon Schaech is an actor who has spent the past few decades not only bringing magic to the screen but challenging himself with each new role. Most recognizable from Tom Hank’s ‘That Thing You Do!’ and most recently on Showtime’s hit series ‘Ray Donovan,’ he has proved time and time again he is much more than a pretty face. He’s written for Showtime, NBC, Sony, Columbia, Lionsgate, MGM Studios, Universal, Happy Madison, and for writers Stephen King and Akiva Goldsman. His latest project finds him venturing outside the world of acting and merges his love of writing with his lifelong love affair with the Baltimore Orioles; capturing the Orioles Magic fans know and love!

His amazing new book, ‘Rick Dempsey’s Caught Stealing: Unbelievable Stories From a Lifetime of Baseball,’ is a collection of fun, colorful, and humorous stories from one of the most entertaining characters in baseball. It’s a book that brings back the magic of baseball to anyone who reads it; the magic Rick would bring to every stadium he ever played. From a lifetime of baseball, readers hear unbelievable tales that will leave you laughing, crying and inspired to succeed through hard work and perseverance.

‘Caught Stealing’ takes you from a bank robbing little league coach, to outrageous adventures in the Tropics; to two World Series championships and what actually cost George Steinbrenner’s’ New York Yankees another World Series loss. It gives insight on Rick’s experiences with Hall of Fame managers Earl Weaver, Billy Martin and Tommy Lasorda.

“Growing up with the Orioles in the 70s and 80s I learned to believe in magic, that anything is possible,” says author Johnathon Schaech. “I wanted to write a book about never giving up in a way that made the reader’s experience better as they read it.”

‘Caught Stealing’ spans three decades behind the plate, playing alongside such baseball greats as Oriole’s Jim Palmer, the Minnesota Twin’s Rod Carew and the Yankee’s Thurman Munson. Whether you are a fan of Rick Dempsey, his infamous Babe Ruth impersonations during rain delays, or just a fan of America’s favorite pastime, this book will make you laugh and aspire you to never give up, and believe in the magic that is baseball. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Johnathon Schaech to discuss his evolution as an actor, the process of capturing Rick Dempsey’s amazing tales in written form, the challenges involved and what the future holds for this multi-faceted artist.

Baltimore Oriole’s Hall of Famer Rick Dempsey and cctor/Baltimore native Johnathon Schaech will be signing copies of Caught Stealing’ at Barnes & Noble, The Power Plant, 601 E. Pratt Street Baltimore, MD on Tuesday, August 26th; 3-5pm ET (before the Orioles – Tampa Bay game).

I want to start by giving everyone a little background on you. What made you take the plunge as a professional actor and what kept you inspired through the years?

Johnathon Schaech
Johnathon Schaech

That is a great question. I studied at UMBC (University of Maryland Baltimore County). I spent one acting course with Sam McCready and I just suddenly realized this is what I could do with my life, an angle I could go for and a dream I could pursue. I was studying economics as my major at the time. I just thought, “Am I really going to do economics for the rest of my life? I can’t stand calculus or micro and macro economics! I want to have fun and do great things with my life!” [laughs] I bolted! I took off! I went to California and met a great acting teacher who took me under his wing. I studied for about three years before I even tried to go out on anything. I got the script for a big Franco Zeffirelli movie. My roommate came over and said, “You have got to go out for this call!” There was an open call for it in the Drama Log at the time. He said, “You are perfect for this role! You have to go out for it!” So I did and I got it! It was a big period movie and I was opposite Vanessa Redgrave. One thing just led to the next thing. You constantly think the thing you just got is the thing that will fulfill the quota you are supposed to make for continued success but then the bar just gets raised and you have to keep going! I think that is what I have done with my life. The good thing about it is that I have met incredible people like Tom Hanks. He is an amazing person. He is a man of integrity and puts things out there that he really wants to pursue. His wife Rita [Wilson] is amazing too. For all these years she has been a singer and finally she put an album out about two years ago, “AM/FM.” They are just pursuing things that they have always wanted to do. It really shows you how you should live your life. Not everyone is Tom Hanks but that doesn’t mean you can’t go out there and pursue your dreams!

It’s funny you mention that because, although we are used to seeing you on screen, you are branching out to the literary world with “Rick Dempsey’s Caught Stealing: Unbelievable Stories From a Lifetime of Baseball.” As a lifelong Baltimore Orioles fan, what are your recollections of meeting Rick Dempsey for the first time?

It was unbelievable man! [laughs] I am such a huge Baltimore Orioles fan! My son’s name is Camden! [laughs] The Orioles have been my team. My writing partner is Richard Chizmar and somewhere over the years he mentioned that Rick Dempsey had this magnificent story that we needed to make into a movie. At the time, I had worked with Tom Hanks and had been making big movies. Through the channels, I called him up and he said, “Come to the game. I got you guys tickets!” Sure enough, he got us two seats and Rich and I went to the game. We met him down by home plate before the game. They opened the gate and we went inside, down to the clubhouse! I was beside myself! [laughs] We were walking down the corridor where the Orioles go! I was in heaven man! [laughs] Then Rick took us in this room where, I guess, the Orioles have strategic meetings. He sat us down and told us this story. It was as simple as this, he said, “In 1963, my little league team was the first West Coast team to ever play in the Pony League World Series. We won 13 straight games to qualify for that World Series! In each one of those cities, a bank was robbed. Our coach was robbing banks in each one of the cities we went to!” [laughs] Instantly, we were like, “That’s a movie!” I couldn’t get Tom Hanks to do it at the time because he was so busy. Six years after that, Rich and I had written for Stephen King for two novels, NBC and Showtime, so we had a lot more writing credits under our belts. We went back out there and Rick hadn’t sold the story. We went out to Hollywood and I took Rick to every single studio and we pitched the story and took the best offer we could.

You are giving voice to these amazing stories from Rick Dempsey. Can you tell us a little bit about the process of putting the book together?

'Caught Stealing' by Johnathon Schaech
‘Caught Stealing’ by Johnathon Schaech

I spent so much time with Rick and became really good friends with him! We’re sitting there in the meetings and trying to figure out the pitch or right thing to say. With every company it was a little different because they are looking for different things! It was surreal! Through the course of it, you are just sitting there at a Starbuck’s talking to Rick about baseball and the 1979 Orioles and how it was the same team that won the Series in 1983, the nucleus group of guys. These were unbelievable stories and the kind of stories that are life lessons for baseball! They were so many amazing stories in addition to the one we wanted to make into a feature. I just said, “I have to turn this into a book for you one day!” He said, “That would be great!” [laughs] Through time, I just kept thinking, “I’ve got to do this. I have to get to this! I told him I would do this!” One day, I just started writing them. I went to a few different sports writers and my writing partner, Richard. I said, “Guys, help me with these stories. This is what I’ve got. They need to be fleshed out and we need to make them longer. Take on each story and help me write these things.” Originally, the stories were too short to make into a novel. They went in and found more research and helped me flesh it all out. Each story is from a different era of his life. For example, when he was with the Yankees, the Dodgers, the Orioles or when he was in the Caribbean League and the chaos he got into down there! [laughs] The thing about Rick Dempsey is that he is a showman! He is an entertainer! That is why he is so good at color commentary with the games. He is a showman! I was lucky growing up because I got to be a part of Rick entertaining the crowds and making Oriole magic come alive! I just put it all down, kept fleshing them out and kept working them as we would with any story to make them as impactful, fun and engaging as possible! The key to each one of these was almost like “Believe it or not!” I say that because every one of these stories will make you go, “Wait a minute! Did that really happen?” [laughs]

The Dodgers story is great. He stayed there all day waiting to talk to the general manager. This was later in his career. You have to remember, Rick played for three decades in the major leagues as a catcher and without the use of any performance enhancing drugs. That is a phenomenal thing! It shows you what kind of man he is. He works hard to stay in shape to stay at the top of his game. In 1988, he was sitting at the end of his career. He is from California, so he wanted to be with the Dodgers but they wouldn’t see him! So, like I was saying, he stayed there until they finally brought him into the office. They said, “Mr. Dempsey, we already have a backup catcher.” He said, “I am going to hit this … I am going to have this many home runs … I can help this club get to this point … and I will hand you the ball after I catch the final pitch of the World Series.” The GM was like, “What? OK, you can go to spring training!” [laughs] Then Rick made the team and did exactly what he said he would do! He caught the pitch from Orel Hershiser and handed it to the GM. Believe it or not! That is what I wanted to do with every one of his stories, make them fun and engaging like that!

Are you still looking to develop these stories into a feature film of some sort? They really have some amazing potential!

Yeah. When we went around to all of the studios, over at Sony at Happy Madison, Adam Sandler wanted to play the role of the bank robbing coach. We wrote the screenplay for them and from there it goes through a whole varying process through the studio. Eventually, they released the option for the story. They own the screenplay, so we would have to go back out there and write a different screenplay. When you write something for a particular guy, you gear it specifically to what they are looking for. For example, Tom Hanks doesn’t make an Adam Sandler movie and vice versa. We would look to take the story and go back out there, which we will eventually, and get it set up with somebody else

O's Fans For Life!
O’s Fans For Life!

That is terrific! We can all learn a little something from Rick Dempsey. What did you learn about yourself through this process?

Yeah! A couple beautiful things came into my life during the process. One of which is my wife, Julie, who is a book publicist. She has sold some of the biggest cookbooks and faith-based books out of Nashville, Tenn. She really encouraged me to put it all together, as did my writing partner Rich. Rick was amazing as well. I would go and interview him for hours and hours. You talk about fun! What I learned is that if you really want something, you really have to do it yourself. You also have to get a support team around you. You can’t do everything by yourself but you have to believe in the people you have with you. That is something Rick talks a great deal about in the book, about how team is so important. He always puts it first. He signs everything 83 MVP because he was the MVP in the World Series that year. He does that because it was an honor he was given and he feels that honor is for all those guys who played on that team. In that series, he was at the top of his game and raised the bar. He is proud of it but he is so proud of everyone on that team and it was an honor he felt they all share.

As a lifelong Baltimore Orioles fan, what is your favorite memory of the franchise?

Hands down, the 1983 World Series. I will never forget that! I was 13 years old and the Orioles magic was there! It’s funny because we are now starting to see how Buck Showalter is a lot like Earl Weaver and this team is a lot like that classic team. They fight to the very end! They came back in the late innings and extra innings and it is really amazing. The Orioles magic is definitely in the air!

When it comes to acting, you have plenty of irons in the fire. You are part of a huge project from director Roland Joffé (“The Killing Fields”) called “Texas Rising.” What can you tell us about the role and being a part of the project?

We have been filming in Durango, Mexico, which is the place where John Wayne would shoot all of his westerns. Our set locations required an hour to an hour-and-a-half traveling to set. Then I was on a horse all day! We are still shooting it but I am in Ocean City, Md. at the moment, relaxing with my family before I have to go back and finish. It is going to come out on Memorial Day. It stars Bill Paxton. They have Ray Liotta playing this legendary guy named Lorca. Brendan Fraser is one of the main Texas Rangers, along with Chris O’Donnell and Trevor Donovan. I play Colonel Sidney Sherman who was the right-hand man to Samuel Houston or you might say left-hand man because he was an adversary through the course of the revolution of the Mexican forces during the Texas revolution. They became a nation to themselves before they came one of our states. That is what the story is all about.

Bringing History To Life: Johnathon Schaech on the set of 'Texas Rising'
Bringing History To Life: Johnathon Schaech and friends on the set of ‘Texas Rising’

How does a role like this compare to what you might normally do for a role in terms of research?

I always go back to Tom Hanks! [laughs] It was such a phenomenal experience to learn how one of the greatest actors of all-time works. He is militant and he works hard, just like Rick Dempsey. Both of them work with such integrity to bring the best possibilities to the forefront. I try to do the same by putting myself in the best position for any role I play. Tom does nothing but research. For example, when we did “That Thing You Do,” I had VHS tapes with everything from 1964. They contained everything from the World Series to every commercial to all the rock ‘n’ roll things that were on television at the time. He was very thorough in getting us all to understand what 1964 was all about! When I got this job, I researched as much as I possibly could. I called the Sherman Library in Sherman, Texas and they sent me everything about Colonel Sidney Sherman I could possibly read! There were discrepancies within the screenplay. Oddly enough, I went to a ball game with Tom Hanks and I said to him, “I need to figure out how to play this. There are discrepancies between what happened with Sherman and the truth. This is for the History Channel! There are some discrepancies between him and how they want me to play him.” What Tom said was, “You were hired to play the role as written. You can suggest changes because of your research. If they take those changes, great! If not, you play it the way it is written.” The one thing you never play this character is as a coward. He was written as a coward and no matter what I did or would ever do, I would never play him as a coward. Those were my rules when I went into battle! Believe me, I was on a horse and leading a charge of 400 men on horseback across a field with cannons and guns going off! [laughs] My sword was raised out front and I was screaming, “Charge!” [laughs] I was like a 13 year old boy again!

I tell ya, Johnathon, you are definitely living my dreams as a 13 year old boy by doing movies, awesome projects like this one, hanging out with Rick Dempsey and seeing the Orioles magic first hand! [laughs]

I have had a fun time! [laughs] What a year I am having! [laughs] Ya know, I also did a movie called “Vice” with Bruce Willis. Oh yeah! I got to work with Bruce Willis this year! I couldn’t believe it! It was a great experience. I wouldn’t say it was the same experience of working with Tom because we got to spend four or five months together and I was with Bruce for a very short period of time. Still, it was Bruce Willis! He was right there, yappin’ away, opposite me! [laughs]

Johnathon Schaech
Johnathon Schaech

Looking back on your career so far, what do you consider your biggest evolution as an actor?

I have learned to adapt like Colonel Sidney Sherman in “Texas Rising.” A lot of people say he was the reason why Texas became a sovereign state over Sam Houston. Many people feel he was the real hero of the revolution but it’s not written that way. My role is nowhere near as big as some of the other characters. I am a supporting character to Sam Houston. I have had to adapt to that because I am used to being the leading. I used to choose things so I could learn different parts of filmmaking and I have learned consistently to adapt and move forward. I am constantly working toward the next job. During the recession, people were calling me up when they were getting laid off from different positions because they knew I was constantly looking for work. They started to have to do the research and dealing with the levels of anxiety and self-loathing that can come when you are not working. I have had to do that for such a long time. A lot of people call me a middle class actor because I constantly have to work and it’s not like I am getting paychecks as big as some of these other guys. Ya know, I am kind of like the Rick Dempsey of the acting world! [laughs] I am always fighting to work and get the next job! That is what I do!

It is inspiring to see someone like you continue to move forward and be fearless when it comes to putting in some hard work. We can certainly learn a lot from you. What is the best advice you can pass along to aspiring actors?

They key is that you never know how close you are to what you might get. I never know! You never know what tomorrow might bring! You just have to constantly move forward. The most popular thing I have ever done in my life is quit. That is the one thing you can’t do. I quit in “That Thing You Do.” I sang it because I was a singer but that is the one thing that someone who wants to pursue their dreams can never do is quit. No matter what happens, you have to pick yourself back up if you fall down.

When you aren’t focused on work, how do you find yourself passing the time these days?

I have so much fun when I make movies! I thought riding a horse every single day would be fun but it turns out it isn’t so much fun after all! [laughs] To be honest, when I am not working I put a big focus on spending time with my family! As I mentioned, I have a little boy, so I try to get him in front of my parents back here or getting them out there as much as possible. That is a big part of my life, just trying to get everybody together, so they can witness this miracle named Camden. I am also a big exercise guy now because I want to be there for the long haul. I am 44 years old and about to turn 45. I want to be there and be able to play catch with my son when he is in high school. I love baseball so much, I can’t see him not playing but if he doesn’t want to play it’s fine! I definitely want to be in shape for that, so I am starting to make sure my body is in tune and trying to find ways to keep this whole dream going! [laughs]

Are you involved with any charity work at the moment that we can help shine a light on?

Johnathon Schaech
Johnathon Schaech

Absolutely! My whole world is about giving back. I was blessed to be given a son who has become such a main focus. I have worked with Talk About Curing Autism for the past 10 years. Autism has grown in such staggering numbers. When I started, I believe the statistic was 1 in every 1,300 children had autism. Now, the statistic is about 1 in every 68. The number is just astounding. It is an epidemic. People have to realize what is going on here and that something is going wrong. There is a lot of debate over Autism but my job is to create awareness to other parents. My wife and I put out releases to help spread the word. For example, I am going to do the carousel ride at Disneyland this year for them. I really want to try to get The Wonders back together from “That Thing You Do” and ride the carousel all day for TACA. It is a terrific organization and you can visit their website at www.tacanow.org.

The other organization is Adopt The Arts (www.adoptthearts.org). It was brought to my attention a few years ago that they were taking the arts out of the elementary schools in California. Then I realized they were doing it across the nation and focusing on math and science. That takes us right back to the start of our conversation today, I was an economics major! [laughs] I think I have been able to do all the things I have done because I have a certain level of creativity inside of me. If you take that away from a child, you are losing one of the biggest parts of self. I couldn’t believe they were doing that, starting to try and trigger these minds into certain routes. I fought very hard with Adopt The Arts to get the arts back into schools. I went to Congress, talked to a lot of politicians and learned a lot about politics. I spoke in front of Congress! A lot of them walked out when I was speaking! [laugh] I just told them that problem solvers aren’t always dictated by who scored the highest, a lot of times they can be the ones that ventured off to learn saxophone, painting or develop some other sort of creative trait. That is a big part of life and something I will be teaching my son. I think that is something everyone should be teaching their children, which is how to be creative.

I couldn’t agree with you more! I want to thank you so much today for giving us a look inside your world and all of these terrific projects! We will be spreading the word and wish you all the best!

Thank you, Jason! I appreciate your time! Talk to you soon!

Baltimore Oriole’s Hall of Famer Rick Dempsey and cctor/Baltimore native Johnathon Schaech will be signing copies of ‘Caught Stealing’ at Barnes & Noble, The Power Plant, 601 E. Pratt Street Baltimore, MD on Tuesday, August 26th; 3-5pm ET (before the Orioles – Tampa Bay game).

Be sure to connect Johnathon Schaech on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. ‘Caught Stealing’ is available for purchase at this location – Click Here!