Brett Varvel: Running the Bases, Family & Being A Disruptor
When a small-town baseball coach gets the offer of a lifetime from a larger 6A High School, he uproots his family and leaves the only home he’s ever known. But as a man of faith, he soon faces extreme opposition to his coaching methods from the school superintendent.
Brett Varvel stars in Running the Bases and this sports-drama is about loss, family, and being a disruptor. Here’s our interview:
Interviewed for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: Running the Bases is way more than a baseball movie. That is the central theme, but there are so much more to unpack.
Brett Varvel: Well, first of all, thanks for talking with me and getting the chance to talk about this exciting movie. I grew up playing baseball, and so that was obviously something that drew me to the project from the beginning. And yes, just as you said, it’s not just a baseball movie. I think that’s the intrigue about it because if it’s just a sports movie, there’s plenty of those. But this packs so much more than just the great game of baseball.
Really, I believe at its core, this movie deals with some difficult life issues that are relatable to so many people. Everyone in this life has experienced some kind of loss or trial or grief or unanswered questions in their life. And what I think that’s so great about this movie is that throughout the majority of the characters in the film, people can watch this movie and point to the screen and say, “That’s me.” And I believe that this movie can give people encouragement and hope in the midst of their unanswered questions, in the midst of their grief and loss, and ultimately point them to the person and the work of Jesus Christ.
RM: One of the things that really hit for me was this idea of God’s provision, and if you look at your life more holistically and then what it means to be a disruptor. So maybe talk a little bit about that theme.
BV: Absolutely. As I said, baseball was the first thing that drew me to the project, but the other thing that drew me to the project was the character that I play. I’ve never been a high school baseball coach, but so many of the circumstances that my character, Luke, faces in the movie, I was able to draw on personal experience from and really coming down to this question of, who am I going to serve in this moment?
Am I going to give in and make man happy, or am I going to serve the Lord and be obedient to Him? And that’s something that I feel like, in this day and age, there’s just this growing need for people to stand firm in their beliefs, no matter the consequences. And when you look at scripture and you look at the life of Christ, you look at these men and women who were willing to take a stand in the face of dire circumstances because they realize that this life is not what it’s all about.
We’re all going to die one day, and we will spend eternity in one of two places. And I think the thing that is so great about this movie is that it points people to the fact that you can be a disruptor in this life, even if that means you’re going to ruffle some feathers along the way, but it’s all for a greater good. It’s all for eternal glory with the Lord.
And not to mention, when you do step into that place of being a disruptor or being someone who can influence change in people’s lives, it’s not just going to make people mad, but it’s also going to inspire hope and encouragement into people. But at the same time, sometimes you got to be willing to stand alone.
RM: Maybe in the film it’s a little bit more heightened of a scale, although any of us could walk through that; it’s also just being firm in those small moments that you think might not mean anything. But it’s by example, which we also see with him as the coach, and not only his own child, but the other kids on the team, they’re watching, they’re trying to make sense of what’s going on in their own lives, and he’s bringing that piece of stability that father figure. Talk a little bit about the importance of just being that role model that leads by example, because he doesn’t say too much with the team, so to speak.
BV: Yeah, there’s a lot of inferred moments of what happens behind the scenes or just a continuation of the nuggets that my character shares with the team. And something that honestly was a cool thing, for me just to be on set with those actors who played the baseball players, was there was a brotherhood and a camaraderie that was almost organic that happened on set. Anytime that you’re making a movie, it’s like a camp-like experience. You have this great, euphoric experience over the course of a few weeks. But especially those guys, those actors, they really bonded together.
And I think a lot of it comes down to the fact that there was all these people coming together for one common goal. And when a leader can step forth and inspire people to latch onto a common goal, then change and unity can happen. I’m reminded of Philippians chapter one, where Paul encourages the Church of Philippi to stand firm in one faith and to not be frightened of what’s coming and to walk in unity for the sake of the gospel. And when we do those things as a group of people, look out, because change will come, and change will happen in our society.
And it’s just a really cool thing to see how, even in quiet moments… It’s not always these big huge speeches or life-altering moments that we like to focus on, but it’s the quiet moments at home with your wife and your kids. It’s the quiet moments when you’re behind closed doors. I think of the scene where Luke and the superintendents are butting heads with one another in his office, and nobody sees it but those two characters. And it’s those moments that really define people.
RM: And you mentioned family. I love seeing in the film that your onscreen wife is very supportive, and you’re talking with your son about the decisions that are being made and how they’re affecting other people’s lives. I feel like whenever an actor takes a project, there’s a lot of opportunity to either bring some of that home or use things from their own life to infuse into their character. For you, and it seems from social that your wife is very supportive and your family. How do you navigate all of that? What does that look like as far as taking roles and managing home life?
BV: I can’t speak highly enough of the love of my life, Christina. She’s my biggest cheerleader. She’s my biggest supporter. I call her my business partner. We do this together. In fact, I try to be very vocal about not only just other people, but speaking into her to remind her that this is not a me thing, this is an us thing. When I go to set and the things that I do on camera are influenced and inspired by my real life with her and with our kids. And she points me to Christ, and she encourages me to keep chasing after Jesus. And so much of my relationship with her is a reflection of what I do and the films that I’m blessed to be a part of.
But then it’s just this constant one step at a time, one project at a time type of a process for us where, when this project came to me a few years ago, I told her about it. I said, “Let’s pray about it and whether or not we should accept this role.” And we felt peace about it. And this was still at the tail end of some of the COVID stuff, and so they weren’t able to come with me on set. Usually, because we homeschool our kids, we can just take the family with me, and we go to to whatever project I’m filming.
This was not one of those situations. And so it was a four-week stint of production where I was away from them, which was super difficult. But praise God for FaceTime and things like that where I could check in on the family and see how things are going. But she does. She bears so much of the home responsibility when I’m not there. And that’s heavy.
And one of the things that is challenging, honestly, just to be transparent about what I do for a living, is a lot of people can look at the fact that I make movies and they ooh and ahh over that. But when I see what she does at home, that’s unbelievable, and that’s worth everything. And in a society in our culture where we’re trying to redefine what makes women valuable, I look at the fact that she stays home with our four kids and teaches them and trains them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. And to me, that is an eternal impact that we may not even see the full extent of on this earth. And so, so much of what I did in this movie was definitely drawn from personal experience.
And Gigi Orsillo, the actress and I who worked together on running the basis, we talked a lot about just our real life and how we could bring some of those elements into the characters of Luke and Jessica to make it relatable and to make it something that people could draw encouragement from when they watch the film.
RM: Wow, thank you so much for saying that. It sounds like you have such a fantastic balance and relationship and family at home that allows you the opportunity to make an impact for the kingdom in the form of art that you might not be able to if there was, behind the scenes, different things going on. So what a testament to her. I love that.
BV: Right. It’s definitely a challenge. I won’t say it’s all rainbows and sunshine all the time, but we do it together.
RM: Fantastic. And one of the other things that’s really great about Running the Bases is it’s coming out on DVD. So much is streaming, which is awesome, but sometimes you just want something tangible. You want to be able to hand it to a friend; maybe you take it to the team, and you share it. Talk to me about the excitement of how Running the Bases is able to be brought home.
BV: Oh, I’m so excited about this. We’ve been waiting for this for a while. We had our theatrical release back in September of ’22, and it’s been many months now of waiting for the right timing and for God’s timing to be able to get these discs out to the public. And it’s personal to me, just because as a filmmaker, we can’t really keep doing this unless people vote with their pocketbook. I was so blessed and blown away by seeing the response of the box office and seeing people show up and buy movie tickets to go see and support this movie.
And it’s not that you’re not supporting it if you watch it on streaming platforms. But when you buy a disc, whether that’s the DVD, the Blu-Ray, or the 4K Ultra HD disc, it is an instant vote of confidence. And we want more of this type of entertainment. We want more of these types of messages and movies. And like you said, it’s something that’s so tangible that you can literally hand to someone, and you can follow up with them, “Hey, have you watched that movie yet?”
And there’s so much personal ministry that can happen. And I think that’s the cool thing, is we spent so much time making this movie, and now we handed it off into the hands of other people to take that and pass it around and share the message with other people. And so they get to partner with us. Again, going back to Philippians chapter one of standing united and walking in faith.
And so yeah, I would highly encourage people to buy the disc when it hits stores on February 21st. It’s easily accessible at Walmart, Target, Best Buy, or even on Amazon. And have a movie night with your friends, your family, your neighbors. You won’t be disappointed.