Talent lands me on ‘SuperHuman’

Maybe you saw my appearance last week on the FOX television special called SuperHuman. The show drew an estimated 3.5 million viewers. I’ve had several requests for interviews from the media wanting to know more about my experience on the show, and this “super human” power that I have. So since I had to keep quiet about it until the show aired, it’s time for me to now share with you some of the behind the scenes nuggets of being cast in a reality competition show.

The process began in April 2014, when I answered an e-mail from a casting company looking for people with special brain power; unique abilities that come from using certain portions of the brain or sensory functions. They listed several examples including “being able to detect the speed of a baseball pitch.” That’s the one that caught my attention.

I began umpiring baseball as a teenager in 1980 and I’ve continued to umpire almost every year since, with a few exceptions. So as a 35-year umpire, I thought that maybe I could tell how fast a pitch is thrown. Until I responded to that e-mail, I had never been tested. I had never tried to do it while checking myself with a radar gun, but that would soon be what the casting folks wanted me to do.

At first I sent them video of me playing catch with my son in the backyard and me shouting out the speed of his pitches. Next, I had to do a Skype interview that was recorded and shown to the producers. Then all of a sudden I stopped hearing from the casting assistant, so I assumed they didn’t like me enough and I probably didn’t make the cut.

Seven months later, in January 2015, I was contacted again by a different casting director explaining her company had taken over casting duties, and the show name was going to be switched from The Brain to something yet to be determined. Also, the network to air the show was changing, but they were still interested in me and wanted to continue to move forward in the process of me applying for the show.

Well, this was a shock since I hadn’t heard from anyone for so long, but immediately I began getting emails and phone calls from one of the producers of the show. Now I knew this was getting serious.

I was sent a radar gun and given orders to go practice and submit videos for the producer to review. A couple local batting cage locations and ORU pitching coach, Sean Snedeker, helped me practice and record video to send to the producers. The videos and another Skype interview were reviewed by the producers, executive producer and network executives, and ultimately out of hundreds of candidates I was selected as one of 12 people from around the country to appear on the show, SuperHuman.

We taped the two-hour pilot in June and that in itself was a great experience. I was in Hollywood for a week and really enjoyed the whole process of flying out to Los Angeles, being driven to the hotel and Studio City, where the show was taped, going through wardrobe, meeting the director Russell Norman (who also directs one of my favorite shows; America’s Got Talent), blocking, rehearsal and taping in front of a studio audience.

The contestants were put in a hotel just two blocks off Hollywood Boulevard, and that gave me the opportunity to take several strolls up and down the “Walk of Fame,” taking in all the sights and sounds of the heart of Hollywood.

Meeting the other contestants was both daunting and a huge pleasure. So many of them had truly amazing brain abilities and I was a bit intimidated; feeling I was out of my league in this competition. However, they were all very friendly and just like me, a bit intimidated and amazed that they were selected for this show and now find themselves in Hollywood on a studio lot.

Some great friendships have sprung from our time together, and why not? We spent most of a week together sitting in one room waiting for our turn to do whatever the producers wanted us to do next; interviews, publicity photo shoots, blocking, rehearsing, etc. Plus, we have something very special in common; we are charter members, the first ever contestants to appear on this show in the United States and we were there because some television executives thought we had amazing abilities and great personalities, that translated well to television. We’ve become a fraternity of sorts and still keep in touch.

The former Major Leaguer they brought in to do the pitching for my challenge was three-time National League All-Star Roy Oswalt. He helped the Houston Astros to their first World Series in 2005, and was named the MVP of the National League Championship Series that year. Ironically, I saw Oswalt pitch with the Tulsa Drillers in May 2013, after he was signed to a minor league contract by the Colorado Rockies. He was called up to Colorado a month later. The production folks kept it secret from me who the pitcher was going to be until a couple days before taping the show, and I only met Oswalt the day of taping when we rehearsed our portion of the challenge.

Oswalt is a very quiet individual, but we did have a chance to chat a bit here and there throughout the day, and we spoke quite a bit about his time in Tulsa and with the Rockies. He had high praise for both the Drillers organization and those who were in the Rockies front office at that time.

If you watched SuperHuman, you know my time on the show was much abbreviated. I had no knowledge or indication that the producers decided to edit four of us contestants down to about one minute each, while all the others had their “full” challenge shown on the show. Even those were edited to a certain extent, but at least you got to see all the attempts.

For my challenge I had to judge three pitches, and honestly the margin of error was changed from three miles per hour when I was practicing at home, to two mph when I got out to California. That day when Oswalt was warming up and throwing practice pitches, he never threw more than 84 mph and was consistently at 83. The first pitch he threw while taping the show came in at 86 mph and I said 82. Oswalt looked at me in disbelief and shrugged his shoulders to say, “I have no idea where that came from.” It was the fastest he had thrown all day.

The next pitch I was off by three mph and the last pitch, the one they showed on the air, I was only one away. Maybe nerves or adrenaline got the best of me that night, whatever the case, I was successful on only one of three pitches, and was not the audience’s choice for the title of SuperHuman. However, I had a blast being a part of the show and will forever be grateful for the opportunity; super human or not.