3-year-old baseball fan has bit role in 'That's My Boy'

Jun 16 2012 - 8:57pm

He prefers to watch replays of the Dodgers' games rather than cartoons.

He wears a full baseball uniform with cleats everywhere he goes, including church.

He asked for a chalk line marker -- to make base paths -- instead of toys for Christmas.

Christian Haupt is not your average 3-year-old.

The Thousand Oaks, Calif., tot is completely obsessed with baseball.

To say he eats, sleeps and breathes the sport might be an understatement.

"It is really crazy. I have no idea where this came from. But he can't get enough," said his mother, Cathy Byrd. "He needs to be doing something with baseball 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It's nonstop."

Christian's precocious baseball abilities earned him a bit role in Adam Sandler's new film, "That's My Boy."

Christian plays a member of the wedding party in a baseball game at a miniature Fenway Park at a mansion on Massachusetts' Cape Cod, where he outshines the adults with his baseball prowess.

Byrd posted a video of Christian on YouTube that caught the attention of the movie's casting director. He emailed to offer Christian the part, and, three weeks later, Christian and his mom flew to Cape Cod to film the scene.

"It was kind of surreal," Byrd said. "My husband and I wondered if this really happens. They had never even met Christian. The kid is really lucky, but he has no idea. He just loves baseball."

Christian's interest in baseball was sparked by seeing his neighbors play in the street nearly two years ago.

He asked his parents if he could go watch Little League games, and was soon requesting nearly every imaginable piece of baseball gear.

He has numerous bats, different positional gloves, various sized balls, a pitching machine, catching gear and his own bases.

Christian, a preschooler at Hillcrest Christian School, played T-ball in the Thousand Oaks Little League this season with kids two years older than him.

The left-hander has nearly perfect form when he swings a bat and an intense stare when he fires a pitch with a leg kick.

His favorite team is the Dodgers and his favorite player is Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. Christian knows the name of every player on the team and most of their statistics and can mimic their batting stances and throwing motions.

"I really like to watch them play," Christian said. "I want to be a professional baseball player like them one day. I am best at hitting because I hit home runs."

Former major league pitcher Rich Rodriguez, a family friend, has been working with Christian for a year.

Rodriguez, a Camarillo, Calif., resident, provides instruction to baseball and softball players of all ages and skill levels in Southern California through his company, Elite Nine.

"We didn't expect to start with a 2-year-old. But it makes it easy for a guy like myself to work with Christian because he has so much energy," Rodriguez said. "It's a big inspiration to see a kid so enthusiastic about something."

His parents knew absolutely nothing about baseball before Christian became immersed.

His father's background is in tennis, and his mother's only experience with a bat and ball came from playing one year of junior-varsity softball in high school.

"We were clueless," Byrd said. "I had no idea about any of the terms he was telling me or any of the names of the teams or players. I was clueless about any of it."

But Byrd has been taking a crash course to keep pace with her son.

Having never even attended a baseball game before, she now has season tickets to the Dodgers and plays with Christian constantly.

She throws to him, hits him fly balls and plays catcher while he pitches.

"It's been a great learning experience for his parents as well," Rodriguez said. "Cathy has really been great for him. She has helped him by reading some of the great books of baseball with him and having him in a baseball environment as much as possible. I think they have all the bases covered."

But the time commitment can be fatiguing.

Christian always begs for one more swing or one more pitch in the front yard. His mother has to drag him from the Little League field crying because he never wants to leave.

And even when he gets inside the house, the baseball never ends.

Christian uses a miniature bat and balls to take batting practice in front of the television. He belts line drives off the microwave and hits pop flies off the ceiling fan.

During one living-room batting practice, his older sister, Charlotte, 7, had to duck to avoid the balls as she made Kool-Aid in the kitchen.

"He always does this," Charlotte said. "He even does it at lunch. He does it all the time. He does it every day because he wants to be a famous baseball player."

The family bought season tickets to the Dodgers this season so Christian could watch his favorite team in person.

His mother never worries about losing track of him at the games.

"He won't move for the entire three hours," she said. "Even if I go buy dinner, he won't stand in line with me. He won't even stop to go to the bathroom. He just sits in his seat absorbed in the game."

Christian's attire at Dodger Stadium -- a full baseball uniform with cleats -- doesn't merit a second glance, but it does warrant a few stares when he goes to school or the family attends church.

"Even if it's in the heat of summer, he wears full baseball clothes with the high socks and long pants," his mother said. "He won't wear shorts even if it's 100 degrees. He never takes it off. I have a laundry pile every week with 10 pairs of white pants with grass stains all over and holes in the knees."

Byrd admits that her son's single-minded focus can be a bit much for a 3-year-old.

"It is extreme and we do try to distract him with other stuff sometimes," she said. "But even at Disneyland, all he wanted to do was play catch. He didn't want to go on any rides."

Christian's baseball obsession does have an educational aspect.

Aside from learning the history of the game, he can recite the alphabet by the names of major league baseball teams -- A is for Angels, B is for Boston Red Sox, C is for Chicago Cubs and D is for Dodgers.

He also knows the numbers of several popular major league players.

Byrd realizes this could be a passing fad or her son could burn out from baseball before he reaches high school.

"I won't be heartbroken if he doesn't want to play baseball in the future. But I am glad he has a passion about something," she said.

Asked why he never wants to stop swinging a bat or throwing a ball, Christian provides an answer expected from a 3-year-old.

"Because I like baseball and I want to play it all the time," he says.


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