Three-year-old a film star, pitching prodigy
LOS ANGELES — On the warm night of Sept. 4, 2012, Christian Haupt stood on the mound at Dodger Stadium in his home Dodger whites, ready to throw the first pitch.
The lefthander — who models his style after Clayton Kershaw — stepped onto the rubber, looked in at catcher Tim Federowicz, nodded yes to the sign and threw. The pennant-race crowd went crazy — even though the ball bounced well short of home plate. Federowicz jogged out to the plate, giving Christian a high five as Haupt walked off the mound — and the crowd's ovation got even louder.
By now you're probably wondering why thousands of fans would cheer a bounced pitch so loudly, especially in the middle of a tight playoff race. Guess you had to be there.
Christian Haupt is just 3 years old. That's not a typo. He's really just three. And with the perfect motion — at least for a prodigy — he threw the ball harder, straighter and longer than most of the men, women or children chosen to throw out the ceremonial first pitch over the course of a season in Chavez Ravine.
"Since Christian has been able to talk at about age 1, he's been obsessed by baseball," said his mother, Cathy Byrd. "My husband (Michael Haupt) tried to get him to play tennis, but to this day he doesn't have much interest in tennis. It's baseball all the time for him.
"He started watching a black-and-white baseball documentary one time, and it was the only show he would watch on television for a year and a half. He would watch it for 10 or 20 minutes a day — nothing else. Not a live game; not cartoons. So, that's when we knew he had the passion."
So, while most kids were watching SpongeBob Squarepants or Power Rangers, young Christian Haupt wanted to watch Kershaw and Matt Kemp.
"And he still has no interest in cartoons," Byrd says proudly.
The youngster also has just one choice when it come to clothing. "Even if it's 100 degrees outside, he'll be in a Dodger jersey, pants, cleats — the whole uniform," his mom reports. "And when he goes to the games, he sits in his seat, never moves and just watches every pitch in his uniform."
Christian told the Ventura County Star that he knows the name of each Dodger player, and imitates 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."
And if that doesn't work out for mini-Kershaw, then movies and television might be in his future.
After seeing a YouTube video of Haupt, the casting director for Happy Madison Productions — Adam Sandler's company — emailed his parents to offer Christian a part in the outrageous comedy "That's My Boy," which debuted over the summer.
Haupt was a member of the wedding party who performed in a scene filmed in Cape Cod, MA in a miniature Fenway Park. Naturally, he was throwing a baseball, and with art imitating life, he threw the ball better than the adults in the scene. Only problem is, Haupt will have to wait a very long time to see his initial theatrical moment, since "That's My Boy" was rated R and definitely raunchy.
"Adam Sandler told me that he'll never show the movie to his two daughters who were in it," Bird said. "It's the same way with Christian. And besides, when the filming was done and he was back home, he went right back to playing baseball, not asking about the movie very much."
If it sounds ike the 3-year-old is obsessed with baseball, well, he obviously has a passion for the sport right now. And Byrd admitted it is a compulsion right now — but in a good way.
"We use it for reading purposes with him, using words and tying them in with baseball and it's definitely helped him advance," she said. "So that's a very positive aspect."
As anyone with children will tell you, getting a 3-year-old to stay attentive for three minutes — let alone three hours — is a feat equivalent to a pitcher throwing a perfect game and hitting four home runs himself. In other words, virtually impossible. The Haupts are indeed fortunate parents, because when they get home from the game — they're Dodger season ticket holders — Christian jumps in front of the TV and, yes, watches the replay of the game.
"Honestly, we don't know where any of this came from," says Byrd, a real estate agent as is her husband. "He absolutely loves anything to do with baseball — especially the Dodgers — and he's got a great memory about plays that are made, the innings they happened in; anything to do with baseball and the Dodgers, it's like he has a photographic memory.
"At first, I couldn't believe that he could retain all of that, so I checked some of the things he was saying. Every time he was exactly right. It's just been so much fun for us."
Many kids, however, change as they get older, and if Christian decides he wants give up hardball to become a lawyer, the Haupts aren't going to force him to play against his will. Or to do anything else, for that matter.
"We're trying to nurture it," said Cathy as she, Michael and Christian were watching 7-year old daughter Charlotte play soccer. "And we hope the passion doesn't go away. But we're not going to push it. I'd be fine with anything he wants to do."
In the meantime, they've had him tutored by former major leaguers. The Haupts are also considering hiring an agent for their son, contacting the Wasserman Media Group and famed sports-and-entertainment attorney Barry Axelrod. So, if the kid wants to take it all the way, he'll certainly have the opportunity.
If he doesn't, the Haupts will continue to love and appreciate both their children.
"They have a great relationship," Byrd said. "Charlotte plays catch with him and they get along great. There will never be any pressure from anyone of us for him to continue playing baseball.
"Right now, he's the one doing the pressuring," she said, laughing as she looked over at the sidelines of the soccer field, only to find Christian playing catch with his dad.