By Lyonel Doherty
A TV and film actor who’s worked with the biggest names in Hollywood had a great time in Oliver this week coaching kids in his favourite sport.
Neal McDonough was a surprise guest at Big League Experience where he shadowed his son Morgan for the past week with baseball greats Bob Didier and Albie Lopez.
McDonough, who starred in Band of Brothers and Walking Tall with Dwayne Johnson, said what camp coordinator Marty Lehn and all the guys are doing at the camp in Oliver is fantastic
“What they (these 80 kids) are learning is immeasurable,” said McDonough, a devout Catholic.
The actor, who starred opposite Tom Cruise in Minority Report, is a huge baseball fan.
“I love baseball, all my kids are all about baseball, and being from Boston, being a diehard Red Sox fan, it’s in my blood I think.”
Actually, baseball was a career he considered after pitching in college, but the acting bug bit a little harder.
He was offered a contract by the Pirates at the same time he was offered a contract by NBC to play Lou Gehrig in the Babe Ruth Story.
So McDonough called his father for advice, saying it was the first big dilemma of his life and he didn’t know what to do.
His dad asked him what he was getting paid. Well, McDonough said he would make about $10,000 for seven or eight months’ of work with the Pirates, or about $50,000 for two weeks’ work for the movie.
“He hung up on me. I called him back and he said that was the dumbest question he ever heard in his life. You get to play baseball and get paid a lot of money!”
McDonough never looked back and went on to star in approximately 100 movies, including The Guardian, The Hitcher and Proud Mary.
“I’ve been blessed beyond belief and for some reason God has given me so many amazing presents.”
McDonough said he doesn’t go over the top talking about his relationship with God, but the boys in camp can see it.
“I say no swearing up here. If you want to cuss back home you can do it, but not here. This is baseball, there is an honour, there is a code, it’s what I love about baseball so much.”
McDonough said he didn’t have a lot growing up in Massachusetts.
“I tell these kids to find something you love doing and just keep doing it. I’ve only had one job in my life and that’s acting, and it’s been fantastic.”
He tells the boys not to listen to other people who say they can’t do something. “Don’t listen to everyone else who says there’s no way that you, from small town Massachusetts, can make it in the movie business.”
McDonough said nobody else will have as much faith in you as yourself.
“If you’ve got a certain God-given talent, I truly believe that it’s a waste of that talent if you don’t go after it (and hone it).”
McDonough said people are born with a certain level of confidence, but you have to earn real confidence.
“Like I say to young actors, you’ve got to get up on stage and fall on your face a few times, and once you start falling on your face, it doesn’t hurt when you fall so much, and after a while you say, what’s the worst thing that can happen? I fall on my face.”
So he tells young ball players that if they strike out, it’s okay because they’ll have another chance to adjust in 15 minutes.
“That’s the amazing thing about baseball, if you make an error, there’s another play coming up in a few seconds. Get over it, let it go, we all make mistakes, we all make errors. Look at Aaron Judge, he struck out 189 times last year, but he also had 50 home runs.”
McDonough said confidence is the key to anything in life, and that’s what he teaches his five kids.
When asked to choose his favourite role, he said that was like being asked to choose his favourite child.
But after a long pause . . . “Band of Brothers without question was the most meaningful job I ever had; to play Buck Compton and to work with Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks.”
It was actually during the filming of Band of Brothers that McDonough met his beloved wife, Ruve. Now it’s 18 years and five children later.
He noted the secret to a successful marriage boils down to one key ingredient: family first, me second.
While it’s not possible to agree on everything, if you put your family first and yourself second, you’ll have a great life and amazing things will happen, he stated.
“When you start putting yourself first, or put yourself on a pedestal, all the things fall by the wayside and after awhile if you put yourself on a pedestal too much, there’s not a lot of people who will want to be on your team.”
McDonough said honour and integrity can sometimes get lost in professional sports, politics and acting.
“Two things that I won’t do as an actor is use the Lord’s name in vain and do a sex scene. I just won’t do it. I’ve never been comfortable with it.”
McDonough said he was fired several years ago when he refused to do a sex scene.
“It was in my contract that I wouldn’t do it, and they wanted me to do it, and they fired me. Then I was blackballed; I couldn’t get a job for two years.”
But he said he wouldn’t change his belief for anything or anyone.
“I’m not going to have a sex scene; I love my wife way more than I love doing my movies. People said I was this crazy, religious guy who won’t have a sex scene with another woman. No, I just love my wife a lot. It’s pretty simple.”
McDonough just finished the first season of Blue Book, a television series like the X Files, but set in the 1950s. It’s about detailed accounts of UFO sightings and how the government tries to cover them up. McDonough plays a decorated Air Force man whose job is to ensure the public doesn’t find out about these UFOs for fear of mass hysteria.
Currently, he is shooting a new movie with Jim Carrey called Sonic The Hedgehog.
He is also starring in Yellowstone with good friend Kevin Costner.
“He is arguably the nicest guy I’ve ever met. When you meet guys who are so successful like Dwayne Johnson and Kevin, or Tom Cruise, they are all even-keeled good guys and they don’t put themselves first.”