No relief: Ottavino feels Ruth’s wrath in digital commercial
NEW YORK (AP) — Adam Ottavino took the mound, wearing a flannel uniform and a glove half the size of his regular leather.
Up to the plate stepped the Babe Ruth, the Sultan of Swat himself. The Bambino hit five thunderous drives as the pitcher turned his head to watch the balls soar.
Hey, Babe: Facing baseball’s most famous hitter was not quite the breeze Ottavino envisioned.
“What a nightmare,” the pitcher says, popping up in bed and breathing hard.
Back in December, Ottavino told the MLB.com’s Statcast podcast: “I would strike Babe Ruth out every time.”
A month later, the native New Yorker signed with a $27 million, three-year contract with the Yankees, who view Ruth as a deity. Within days, the team approached Ottavino about making a commercial in which he pitches to Ruth with catastrophic consequences.
“I thought it was a good idea, just to show that I can make fun of myself,” the 33-year-old right-hander said.
Brian Spector, senior executive producer of Yankees productions, developed the idea with his staff and shot the 45-second commercial early during spring training in Tampa, Florida.
“Pretty funny,” manager Aaron Boone said.
New York found archival footage of Ruth and shot new material with Ottavino on a back lot behind third base at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida, and at a nearby hotel room of a Yankees employee.
The new video, shot digitally at the standard 30 frames per second with a Sony FS7 camera, was edited with Adobe After Effects software over three days.
“Threw a sepia tone on it, changed the frame rate down to a 12-frame-a-second type feel, kind of how it was back then, added a lot of grain, changed the saturation levels, added a lot of effects to kind of dirty it up,” Spector said.
Ottavino played his part for an hour each on two mornings in February before position players reported.
“I was curious to see which direction they would go with it because we did so many iterations,” he said. “There’s so many different lines that were fed to me, so I didn’t know what was going to come out of it.”
New York ordered old-style uniforms and found the caps and gloves online.
“Did I really say I could strike out Babe Ruth every time?” Ottavino said as the commercial opens. “He’s sooo much bigger in person. He’s currently hitting .370? And why is right field so short — 295? Oh, it’s 490 to center, at least. Wait, how did I get here?”
After the home-run barrage, the commercial switches to color.
“What a nightmare,” Ottavino says.
He pitched to Yankees catcher Austin Romine for “Ottavino’s Nightmare,” which aired during YES’s opening-day pregame show.
Outtakes were posted on YouTube. Romine kept trying to get Ottavino to crack up in laughter.
“Let’s pitch around him next time, see?” the catcher dead-planned. “Man, this dream’s really giving me the heebie-jeebies.”
And then he went to the mound and said: “Did you see how far that went?” pointing with his mitt.
Ottavino concluded: “This is humiliating.”
“He was talking like an old-timey voice,” the pitcher later recalled. “I had a hard time keeping my face straight,”
Romine still chuckled about it two months later.
“It was a blast,” he said.
Spector, a 38-year-old specializing in graphics, worked for YES in 2004 and joined the Yankees in 2007. His team of 12 considers about 15-20 concepts annually and creates a few each year for Yankees On Demand.
Among the most memorable was a 2015 spot with Brett Gardner, Dellin Betances, Jacoby Ellsbury, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley, Brian McCann and CC Sabathia recreating a scene from the 1993 movie “The Sandlot.” That was part of series of recreations that included “Step Brothers” with Gregorius and Starlin Castro (2016) and “The Hangover” with Gregorius, Castro and Matt Holliday (2017).
Parody commercials have featured Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances in “Relief Heating Company” (2018) and “Bronx Yard Work” with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton (this year).
Spector considered Ottavino an ideal actor.
“He nailed it,” he said.