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BIG READ: PSYCH Plays Ball in Nat Bailey Stadium

Published June 2, 2011 on Vancouver is Awesome

PSYCH-Os, fans of USA Network comedic-detective series Psych, have been asking when I would return to their show. Since I watched Psych filming its vampire-themed season-six episode in late March, the producers have hosted a parade of guest stars ranging from Clockwork Orange baddie Malcolm McDowell to New Kid on the Block Joey McIntyre to Brat Packer Molly Ringwald and done Darth Vader to Superman to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest themed episodes in locations as far away as Gibsons Landing. I promised PSYCH-O’s I would try to photograph a rumoured baseball episode if the cast and crew showed up at Vancouver’s baseball mecca — Nat Bailey Stadium.

Sure enough, a friend spotted dozens of white film trucks and trailers parked at the Nat, home to minor league Vancouver Canadians, on the Tuesday morning after the Victoria Day long weekend. Various entertainment sites soon reported that Psych’s sixth filmed episode of the sixth season would feature the mysterious death of fictional minor league Santa Barbara Seabirds’ hitting coach, with guest stars Danny Glover (of Lethal Weapon fame), Baseball Hall of Famer and 1996 World Series Champ Wade Boggs and Michael Trucco (Fairly Legal/Battlestar Galactica), who plays a childhood idol of James Roday’s “psychic” detective Shawn Spencer. I did wonder how Spencer’s best friend Burton “Gus” Buster, embodied by Dule Hill, would figure into the investigation, but didn’t have long to wait.

Through the trees from the grassy slope of Queen Elizabeth Park that morning I could hear the extras, who filled section 1 of the reserved grandstand overlooking first base, shouting at a big white bird mascot wearing a blue Santa Barbara Seabirds jersey (looking very much like Mascot Hall of Famer, the San Diego Chicken) shooting things at them in the stands with a black airgun. Zooming in with my camera in between takes, it appeared to be Dule Hill or a stunt double in costume as mascot Sammy the Seabird. Not long after, Hill confirmed he would be Sammy when he tweeted a photo of the giant yellow webbed feet wardrobe expected him to wear that day: “So we are starting with these on my feet, huh? Uhh…please don’t let me bust my ass.”

While the stunt double angered the fan extras in the airgun scenes, trained tap dancer Dule Hill won over the jeering throng with some sweet Sammy dance moves in a routine that ended with Hill face down on a platform near the field doing the worm as his giant yellow feet flopped up and down.

Psych only used small sections of the stands during filming leaving the rest empty, but crew did make some temporary changes to the Nat, replacing a Canadian sponsor billboard ad with Raleigh, and taking over the Big Board with the names of Psych producers, writers and a regular director as the Seabirds batting lineup: Executive Producer Steve #24 Franks as pitcher; Executive Producer Kelly #27 Kulchak as centre field; Executive Producer Chris #35 Henze; Consulting Producer Kell #36 Cahoon as second base; and Consulting Producer Todd #46 Harthan as left field.

Later that day, the extras moved to section 10 of the reserved grandstand overlooking third base for some scenes, first with some kind of verbal confrontation on the pitcher’s mound with Michael Trucco as the Seabirds catcher #18 Eason, James Roday as some kind of temporary Seabirds manager, Hill’s stunt double as Sammy the mascot and other actors playing the pitcher and first baseman. After, I could see Vancouver stunt coordinator Dan Shea (from Stargate Atlantis) setting up rehearsals with mats in the outfield for a Seabirds team fight scene, with Hill’s stunt double as Sammy jumping up and kung-fu-kicking a player with his big yellow feet. They then filmed it for real in several takes without mats. And this scene proved funnier than Hill’s Sammy dance.

Feeling that I had overphotographed Psych on their first day of filming, I didn’t return to the Nat until midday the following Wednesday to find no extras in the stands and the crew filming Michael Trucco up at bat. Later the crew filmed the stunt double pitcher hurling pitches across home plate. I still had not seen the other guest stars, Danny Glover and Wade Boggs, on set although I did mistake a much-younger crew member for Glover at first.

On Thursday afternoon, the action remained in the infield and I was lucky to spot and photograph Danny Glover as Seabirds manager Hornsby, the #22 stitched on his back, at the sidelines near third base. Fifteen minutes later, I heard the crew chanting “Roday, Roday, Roday” and realized the Psych lead was at bat. I’m not sure if this was filmed or just for fun. Roday then sauntered across the field, lingering by some crew members playing catch, until a real baseball star showed up – Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees legend Wade Boggs. I photographed Roday, co-star Corbin Bernsen (retired cop and Shawn’s father) and episode writer Bill #45 Callahan chatting with Boggs outside the black star tent on the field. I won’t know until the episode airs if Boggs, wearing a #12 Bishop Seabirds uniform, is cast as the hitting-coach victim, but it makes sense considering Boggs’s real-life gig as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays hitting coach. According to a Vancouver Sun sports brief, the actual murder takes place in the usually well-ordered office of Vancouver Canadians president Andy Dunn.

I thought Psych wrapped at Nat Bailey stadium last Thursday night, but cast and crew returned early this week to film on nearby streets: including driving scenes using a car-rig and a key scene between James Roday and Michael Trucco outside a house with an honest-to-goodness white picket fence. Crew cheered and bowed for Trucco after he wrapped Monday morning but I won’t say anything more about it because I’ve spilled enough spoilers for one episode.

According to Dule Hill, Danny Glover didn’t wrap until yesterday afternoon in what looked to be studio: “Hey #PSYCH’Os that’s a wrap on @MrDannyGlover! This guy standing next to me is 1 cool dude. #YouKnowThatsRight” Next up for Psych is a hippies- themed episode written by Tim #25 Meltreger.

Update: I thought that Psych would CGI its crowd for this episode but they used a real live baseball crowd on Friday, July 15th — asking the Vancouver Canadians fans to stay after the game in Nat Bailey stadium to film scenes with baseball player extras and the Seabirds mascot.

Official episode title is Dead Man’s Curve Ball.

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