The pivotal player in the movie “Moneyball” is arguably Scott Hatteberg. In the book, upon which the film is based, author Michael Lewis devotes an entire chapter to Hatteberg.
Though what happened with Hatteberg’s amazing 2002 season is well documented, the book was published in 2003. That was eight years ago. What has happened to Hatteberg since then?
Happily for Hatteberg, he’s still in baseball. He’s employed by the Oakland A’s!
But Hatteberg, now 41, is no longer a player. He retired in 2008, after playing parts of 14 seasons in the big leagues. That is quite an accomplishment for a healthy player – not to mention one whose career would have normally been cut short by injury (in 2001, after six seasons with the Boston Red Sox).
Hatteberg, who suffered nerve damage in the elbow of his throwing hand, had an operation that really wasn’t completely successful to relieve pressure on his ulnar nerve. The result was a feeling like he was permanently whacking his funny bone. A catcher up until then, Hatteberg no longer had the “feel” for a baseball needed to throw it smartly back to the pitcher 100 times a game, after each pitch – much less throw runners out who were trying to steal a base.
The Red Sox cut him. The movie makes it seem as though the Oakland A’s were the only team that would take a chance on him. Actually, the A’s had to out-bid the Colorado Rockies, who wanted him as a pinch-hitter. He could still hold a bat – and swing it (although he took more pitches than any hitter in the league; he walked a lot, as result). He was a savvy hitter who was still able to use his wiles to got on base with almost league-leading frequency.
As an member of the A’s, appearing as the designated hitter, and later – when he became more comfortable on defense – playing an ever-improving first base. He also really did have that memorable pinch-hit, walk-off home that won the A’s major league record 20th game in a row.
And he wound up having a decent year, statistically. The A’s re-signed him and he would go on to play a total of four seasons for them, batting a solid .269 and hitting 49 home runs.
In 2006, he moved to the Cincinnati Reds, for whom he played for parts of three seasons. He was released in June 2008, after being reduced to pinch-hitting duties, which he said didn’t suit him well.
That was end of his playing days. Hatteberg, still married to his wife Bitsy – who has a brief role in the movie, says he loves the Great Outdoors, his family (they have three kids), and Gig Harbor, Washington – where the family has lived the past decade.
As an indication of his tenaciousness – despite his nerve damage issues, which still trouble him – he has taught himself to play guitar.
After taking about a year off, following his dismissal by the Reds, Hatteberg approached his old friend and benefactor, A’s general manager Billy Beane, about a front office role with the A’s. He had a standing offer from Beane, who was true to his word.
So, Hatteberg has been working lately as an advisor to Beane, and as a special assignment scout for the team. Ironically, the man who benefited so much from the sabermetric statistical approach to evaluating a player’s skills, now spends much of his time subjectively evaluating amateur talent for the A’s.
“I watch the players, watch their games, and write up reports for the A’s on what I think of the guys,” he told his hometown newspaper recently.
Oh, and one other thing, he almost became a movie star – playing himself. “Originally, when Steven Soderberg was going to produce the movie, he had an idea that all the original players should actually play themselves,” he noted. “But eventually that idea got shelved.” Soderberg left the project; Aaron Sorkin came in to write a new script, and the players became advisors to the actors brought in to portray them.
It was fun, Hatteberg said, working with Chris Pratt, who plays him in the movie. “I only knew him from ‘Parks & Recreation’,” Hatteberg said. “It’s kind of freaky watching him play me. He’s got all the mannerisms down. And he’s a big, strong athletic guy who played football in school. He nails me.”
September 26, 2011