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Baseball player from Ponte Vedra hangs up cleats to pursue Hollywood after landing speaking role in Jackie Robinson movie '42'

11:20 PM, Apr 12, 2013   |    comments
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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Blake Sanders' love of baseball runs deep. The former Nease High School infielder was just a few weeks away from starting his second season playing independent professional baseball in Texas when he got a call from his grandmother.

It was about a year ago. She told him a movie about Jackie Robinson was being filmed and they were looking for pro-baseball players.
"So my dad sends in a picture of me in uniform to the casting website. We get an email back that night asking if I could go up to Atlanta for an interview. We end up driving up to Atlanta for the interview and they asked me to come back the next day for a baseball tryout," recalled Sanders.

Out of more than a thousand people, he was one of the ones selected to be an extra. But the spotlight didn't end there.

"After I was picked to be an extra, the director of the movie, Brian Helgeland, comes out and he profiles all of the 25 guys and he picks me and one other guy and asks us to come in and read lines and the next thing you know he says 'congratulations on your new career. You are a left fielder for the Brooklyn Dodgers.'"

Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947 when he joined the Dodgers.

"I didn't know everything he dealt with. His family, him and Mrs. Robinson, they have to be unbelievably strong people because day in and day out. They felt the hatred of people around the world," said Sanders.

The 25-year-old said he had never acted before, but that didn't stop him from getting a speaking role in the movie "42" working in alongside big names like Harrison Ford.

"I  play Gene Hermanski who was a left fielder for the Brooklyn Dodgers back in 1947 and he's actually only one of two guys on the team who really took Jackie in and was friends with him as soon he came into the locker room. I'm actually the first person in the movie to introduce myself to Jackie when he comes in to the locker room for the first time to get his jersey for the Dodgers," said Sanders.

Tuesday he and his mother, Sandy Sanders, walked the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere while his father and sister, Bernie and Brooke Sanders, took pictures of the big event.

"Just being a part of that set and with everybody for three months and just the camaraderie that we had and all the actors became teammates, and we actually felt like we were the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers. It was really a dream come true to be part of that."

As for where this Ponte Vedra native plans to go from here ...

"I've given up the game of baseball and now I'm pursing Hollywood. So I'm going to do everything I can to be successful and continue to live this dream."

First Coast News

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