Dohling knows Moneyball

Don't be surprised if the team on-base percentage of Tarbut V'Torah's baseball team makes a significant jump next season.

Brent Dohling is the high school baseball coach at TVT, a Jewish Community Day School in Irvine with about 150 students. He also had a small part in the movie "Moneyball" starring Brad Pitt, Dohling playing the part of Oakland A's second baseman Mark Ellis.

The entire idea of "Moneyball" stemmed from A's general manager Billy Beane's attempts to get more out of a limited payroll and compete with the big-spending teams like the Yankees.

"I related to the Moneyball philosophy," Dohling said. "We're a small school trying to turn the program around. We've got 70-75 [male students in the entire school] to choose from and build it into something so we can compete at a higher level."

The Moneyball philosophy puts an emphasis on on-base percentage and slugging percentage, while moving away from stats like batting average and stolen bases to evaluate players. So for Dohling, who expects to have maybe 13 or 14 boys go out for baseball next spring, it's all about doing more with less.

"Yes, I expect our on-base percentage to go up," Dohling, 27, said with a laugh. "I don't like to bunt either because I don't like to give up outs, and that's another Moneyball idea. But I'm also a true believer in hitting-and-running, stealing bases and putting constant pressure on the defense, so I still have my own way of doing things as a coach."

It worked last season, in Dohling's first year as the team's baseball coach after coming over from San Clemente High, where he was a varsity assistant. TVT went 11-4 last year after having won a total of nine games in the previous three seasons combined competing in CIF Southern Section Division VII.

It hasn't been that long since Dohling was a player himself, playing from 2005-07 at Concordia University in Irvine. He ranks second in school history in both doubles (48) and extra-base hits (66).

And it was those skills, still sharp enough, that helped him land the role in "Moneyball."

Dohling's cousin, Jeff Baumback, is the baseball coach at Redondo Union High and had heard from a major league scout that there was a movie company looking for former pro and college players for a baseball movie.

Dohling said the tryouts seemed more like a tryout for a professional team, because the director of the movie, Bennett Miller, wanted the baseball scenes in the movie to look legitimate.

After several tryouts at both Los Angeles Pierce College and USC, Dohling was chosen to play the role of A's second baseman Mark Ellis, who was a rookie in 2002, the season in which "Moneyball" was based.

"It never crossed my mind to act," Dohling said. "The experience was unbelievable, and being a part of a baseball movie made it even better. I felt like I was part of a team again. It was so much better than I expected."

Dohling had a couple of lines in the movie, one of which made the cut. It was a scene in the weight room, where Dohling's character, Ellis, says to Pitt's character, Beane: "So, you want us to walk more?"

The line that was cut out? Ellis to Beane: "Walking is for little (expletive), Billy."

Dohling said he enjoyed working with Pitt.

"I expected him to go in and not interact with us, just do his own thing," Dohling said. "But I was completely 100% wrong, especially when we were on the Sony Pictures lot in L.A. He was one of the guys hanging out with us, talking trash, having a good time.

"He'd ask us questions about certain lines, making sure they made sense, and ask us if there was anything that he should add to a line to help make a point."

Most of the time Dohling spent making the movie took place at the Oakland Coliseum in July of 2010. While the real-life A's were on a road trip, Dohling and his "teammates" filmed baseball scenes in the stadium, sometimes going all night until 5 a.m., in front of extras posing as fans.

"There would be anywhere from two to three thousand up to 10,000, depending on the night," Dohling said. "And my parents were there too, so that was cool. Then after we'd get done shooting, we would just go live and play for real. It was so much fun because I grew up an A's fan, and it's the first major league stadium I ever went to. I grew up a Bash Brothers fan."

Dohling said they used a scene in the movie in which he helped turn a double play, but the baseball scenes were limited.

"In the movie itself, they don't have as many on-field baseball scenes as I expected, considering all the work we put into it," he said. "But the vision the director had was to have baseball guys not just for the baseball scenes, but also the locker room scenes, our body language, how guys carry themselves in the clubhouse."

Dohling got to know the actor playing the part of A's shortstop Miguel Tejada, who happens to be a former major leaguer himself — Royce Clayton. And Dohling took the opportunity to learn from Clayton.

"I talked to Royce a lot so now I can pass it along to my players," Dohling said. "And I also tried to find out what he learned from other big league guys, things like situational hitting, mechanics, is he a fastball-adjust type of guy. I picked his brain."

Dohling said he has no interest to leave his career as a teacher and coach to get into acting, though he admitted the money is nice. If the movie makes a lot of money at the box office and on DVD sales, he could wind up making more money in residuals than he makes in an entire year of teaching.

"If an opportunity falls into place again, sure, I'd do it again," he said. "But I'm not giving up coaching and teaching — they're my passion."

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World