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UCI’s comedy team

BASEBALL: Pregame skits, organized by Linton, Lopez and Bell, have helped Anteaters stay loose, grow tight.

June 05, 2008|By Barry Faulkner

Tyler Hoechlin has appeared on the big screen with Tom Hanks, Paul Newman and Jennifer Jason Leigh, but some of his best acting has occurred with his UC Irvine baseball teammates, just after pregame stretching, down the left-field line.

Hoechlin, a freshman infielder whose acting resume includes playing Tom Hanks’ son in the 2002 movie “Road to Perdition,” as well as recurring character Martin Brewer on the television series “7th Heaven” is anything but the star of the Anteaters’ improvisational acting and production troupe known as The Company.

The group, started by junior outfielder Ollie Linton and senior pitcher Chris Lopez, evolved last season from some minor pregame high jinx into what has now become a brief performance, often a parody of television and movies. The skits are also shaped by the real life experiences of the players, both on and off the field.

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Linton, a shameless showman who owns the school single-season and career stolen base records and is expected to be selected in the Major League Draft today, is the heart and soul of the group, which often recruits other players and even coaches to perform in the skits that occur hours before each UCI home and road game.

Linton is the group’s most prolific creative force, teaming with Lopez, a former Little League teammate and longtime friend whose locker in the Anteater Ballpark clubhouse is adjoined with Linton’s, to come up with the ideas for each skit.

Lopez, a reliever whom UCI Coach Mike Gillespie says has a future in standup comedy, is a perhaps the group’s comedic anchor.

Together, they work out scripted details, or merely a basic outline from which they and their teammates riff on themselves and others. Their singular aim is to inject a little laughter into the competitive grind that is college baseball.

They’ve been known to mock anyone who drops a popup or misses a sign. And, after one rough patch early in the Big West Conference schedule, the group dramatically laid its bullpen to rest, hoping to end some struggles by relievers.

“This skit business they do is hilarious,” said Gillespie, a 67-year-old first-year head coach who has allowed the group to continue after taking over for Dave Serrano, now at Cal State Fullerton.

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