The filmed-in-Georgia Jackie Robinson biopic 42, which opens tomorrow, has another local tie-in: Duluth resident Jasha Balcom. A former UGA baseball star, Balcom served as the stunt double for star Chadwick Boseman in the film's action scenes.
Balcom grew up hearing stories about Jackie Robinson from his father and knew from an early age that Robinson paved the way for the players he grew up watching.
“I grew up in Dublin, Georgia, which is similar to Cairo, where Jackie was from,” said Balcom, who played for the University of Georgia and later, as part of the Chicago Cubs organization, for the South Georgia Peanuts.
While 42: The True Story of An American Legend showcases the blood and tears of Jackie Robinson’s barrier-breaking climb to fame, Balcom’s cinematic experience also included copious quantities of sweat.
In order to prepare himself for the action scenes, Balcom, who was still in pretty good shape from his last stint in professional baseball in 2007, trained hard, using a ProBatter simulator to get back in form and better imitate a young Jackie Robinson—stealing bases and sliding to home.
Of the mental preparation, Balcom said, “I really just had to channel Jackie.”
When he’s not playing baseball legends on film, Balcom provides his own inspiration at Hitter’s Box, the baseball training facility he founded in Duluth. He hopes the film will motivate the children that he trains, many of whom have no idea the impact that Robinson had.
“They’ll have a chance to see what he did,” Balcom said. “They’ll learn a great deal.”