By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
8:17 AM EST, February 24, 2014
SARASOTA, Fla. – Spoiler alert!
A scene in the recently-released second season of "House of Cards" that features fictional politician Frank Underwood throwing out a pregame first pitch before an Orioles game at Camden Yards was less than three minutes long but it took two full months to execute.
In the sixth episode of Season 2 of the Netflix political drama – which is filmed in the Baltimore area – the scene includes a staged national anthem and features cameos by former Orioles Jim Johnson and Nate McLouth.
In the scene, actor Kevin Spacey -- who plays the diabolical Underwood -- is first seen wearing an Orioles jacket awaiting his introduction in the tunnel to the Orioles dugout before the scene moves onto the field where he is going to throw out the pregame first pitch to Johnson.
"House of Cards" reached out to the Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority in early June of last year about filming a scene at Camden Yards.
“For us it seemed like an exciting opportunity to showcase a show that is set in Washington and filmed in Baltimore and wants to utilize Camden Yards for an appearance by a politician, or at least a fictitious politician,” Orioles vice president of communications and marketing Greg Bader said. “We thought it was a really fun opportunity for us to showcase the ballpark.”
But before the scene could be shot, it had to be approved by the Orioles, the stadium authority and Major League Baseball. There were several site meetings and scout shoots into July involving individuals from the show’s production staff and club personnel from ballpark operations and public relations.
In July, a crew came to Camden Yards to shoot B-roll footage of pregame scenes during an actual Orioles home game.
And on July 29, during an off day in the middle of a nine-game homestand, the "House of Cards" staff took over Camden Yards for the actual shoot with actors.
Johnson and McLouth were the only Orioles players in the scene, which included actors who played Orioles and Boston Red Sox players lined up in front of the dugouts during the national anthem.
Bader said Johnson and McLouth volunteered to come in during the off day to be in the scene.
“We opened up to the players,” Bader said. “We said, ‘Hey, we know this is your off night. We’re looking for a couple of real Orioles to kind put in even more of an element of realism to it.' The two of them were very enthusiastic about it. I don’t know if there were just fans of the show of just thought it would be fun to do, but they actually volunteered and came out to do it.”
There are some subtle touches that give the scene realism, like the crowd yelling “O” during the anthem. But Johnson and McLouth are conspicuously placed right behind the anthem singer, which wouldn’t happen. After the anthem singer finishes, she then introduces Underwood. The public address announcer would normally handle that duty.
Underwood then emerges from the home dugout, shakes handed with Johnson, McLouth and the Orioles Bird and steps to the microphone for a few words.
“Best of luck to both teams,” Underwood says. “Oh, scratch that. We’re at Camden Yards. Go Orioles!”
The film crew that took over Camden Yards that night consisted of about 60-70 people, including actors. The shoot took about 12 hours from early afternoon to beyond midnight, Bader said.
Interestingly enough, Spacey threw out a first pitch -- as himself -- before an Orioles game at Camden Yards on July 14, throwing to Johnson.
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