Alumnus Appears in Blockbuster Film

Alumnus Appears in Blockbuster Film

C.J. Nitkowski photographed on the field for when he played the New York Yankees.

Not since the days of Field of Dreams and For the Love of the game have baseball enthusiasts had a story that they could watch and feel a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment.

These same enthusiasts feel their sense of entitlement when Billy Chapel completes his no-hitter or when Ray Kinsella plays catch with his father. It’s these moments that fill the hearts of viewers with joy and excitement, they get closure.

Another movie that will give its viewers the same feeling is 42, a film about the life of Jackie Robinson. The motion picture chronicles Robinson’s first year as a major league ball player in 1947. Robinson is played by Chadwick Boseman who has made cameo appearances on Fringe and Castle.

Another notable actor is Harrison Ford who plays Branch Rickey.

However, this next face is one that only true baseball enthusiasts would recognize: C.J. Nitkowski. Nitkowski, 40, played baseball at St. John’s from 1992 to 94 and was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 1995.

Nitkowski, now out of baseball, coaches his twelve year old son’s baseball team and was set up through one of his player’s mother, who was a casting agent for the film.

At first, Nitkowski was supposed to just be an extra but was asked to read a couple of lines and was given the role as Dutch Leonard, who was a right handed knuckleball pitcher. The only problem was that Nitkowski was a conventional left-handed pitcher.

“The topic never came up, nobody would really know,” Nitkowski said. “The biggest thing was to find a guy who could fit the description of a 39 year old.”

When filming a sports movie, many actors face the challenge of having to play an athlete and could find it challenging to play a sport when they don’t have the skill set of a professional athlete like Charlie Sheen who played Rick Wild Thing Vaughn or Kevin Costner.

However, in Nitkowski’s situation, it was the athlete who had to don the cap of actor.

“It was just one line,” Nitkowski said. “We shot it again a bunch of times, it wasn’t as hard as I thought.”

The set was at Engel Stadium in Chattanooga, Tennessee where Nitkowski took his first steps on the mound as a professional. The stadium isn’t used anymore and was two hours from Atlanta, where Nitkowski resides.

“It was pretty cool to go back and shoot there,” Nitkowski said.

Although the movie was shot in 2013, the screenwriters used a language more suitable for a typical day down south 66 years ago.

“Obviously it’s strong language, I didn’t have an issue with it though,” he said. “I understood the type of language that went on back then.”
When he’s not playing old time ball players, Nitkowski is taking the plunge into the broadcasting world as a freelance writer for,, and some color analysis for college baseball.