It's a beautiful day at the ball park for J. Richey Nash.
The mercury has just broken 70 on Friday morning, and sun bathes the field at Whitaker Bank Ballpark, getting one of its last trims before the grass goes dormant under the winter chill.
"I want to be out there," Nash says of the Lexington Legends' field. "Maybe Andy can come out and throw me some balls for a little batting practice," he says, referring to Legends president and chief operating officer Andy Shea.
Being in the park reminds Nash of being out on the field a couple summers ago, catching long fly balls and getting several hits.
He was making a movie.
Hitting the Cycle, which was shot in Lexington and other locations around Central Kentucky, will make its area premiere Thursday through Sunday at The Kentucky Theatre, beginning with a big soiree Thursday night.
"When we started making this movie, one of my first thoughts was, 'Oh, wouldn't it be cool to have it play in Lexington at The Kentucky Theatre," Nash says, relaxing in one of the seats behind home plate. "And now, it's happening."
The movie marries Nash's love of sports, and baseball in particular, with his career as an actor and filmmaker based in Los Angeles.
He grew up in Lexington, the son of former University of Kentucky basketball standout Charles "Cotton" Nash, who went on to play professional basketball and baseball.
After graduating from Henry Clay High School in 1986, Richey Nash went to Princeton, where he played college baseball and was drafted by the San Diego Padres.
He played in the minor leagues and one year in Italy. In the midst of that, he took an acting class at the suggestion of a friend.
"It was purely because I was trying to get into this sports marketing business and I had a real sort of fear of public speaking," Nash recalls.
When his baseball career came to a close, he turned to acting, first on New York stages where he studied at Circle in the Square Theatre and founded Tidemark Theatre Company before heading to Los Angeles and film. He has appeared in TV series such as Criminal Minds and George Lopez and the feature film Stay Alive, produced and directed by fellow Lexingtonians William Brent Bell and Matthew Peterman.
"I always had an interest in writing, as well, so I took a couple screenwriting courses to see what it was all about, and decided to take a shot at writing a screenplay," Nash says. "Obviously, my first thought was sports."
Hitting the Cycle, which Nash also starred in and co-directed with Darin Anthony, is about a former Major League Baseball player at the end of his career. Returning to his hometown, he must deal with ghosts from his past and starting a new life. Jimmy "Rip" Ripley is a slightly autobiographical character who played outfield, had a few glorious moments on the diamond and saw his career ended by an injury.
The rest, including an estranged father, played by Bruce Dern, is fictional.
Nash says he looked at filming in a number of places, but Lexington ended up making the most sense financially, particularly with numerous local connections willing to let the production film in their homes or businesses. Getting the Legends on board was a key.
"The day I met with Alan Stein and he said yes, I knew we were in business," Nash says of the team's founder and former president.
The production filmed several days in summer 2010 during a series against the West Virginia Power, shooting game footage and scenes with the actors.
Other Lexington locations included Al's Bar, Atomic Café, Chevy Chase Inn, the baseball fields at Veterans Park and numerous local residences.
Most of the lead roles were filled by Los Angeles-based film actors, but Nash also leaned heavily on local talent for supporting roles with the help of Lexington actor Joe Gatton, who himself plays a bartender in the film. Familiar faces to area theater goers include Tom Phillips, Ellie Clark, Eben French Mastin and Tommy Gatton.
After the film was done, Nash sent it to festivals and distributors, and it has been on the festival circuit this year, going five-for-five in awards, including best dramatic feature at the Manhattan Film Festival in August. It screened Saturday night at the Louisville International Festival of Film, where it won the "festival darling" award, and will wind up its fest run this fall. Then, Nash says, he will work on securing distribution for the film; he says he has been hearing from distributors since the film began screenings.
After that, he will be on to new projects.
"Always auditioning in L.A.," he says. "And I am working with a few new script ideas. Maybe I'll want to try this again."