By BRENNA GRITEMAN
“He made thousands of fans cheer, but never heard one.”
That’s the way director David Risotto describes the deaf baseball player William “Dummy” Hoy, and it’s a reality that inspired Risotto to spend 10 years creating the film “The Silent Natural.” The movie follows the documentary “Dummy Hoy: A Deaf Hero,” written, directed and produced by Risotto in 2007.
“The Silent Natural” was filmed at various locations throughout southern Kentucky including, as luck would have it, the historic apartment building where Earl Bargerstock’s son lives. Bargerstock, of Fremont, appears in several of the film’s scenes, including as a staff member at an orphanage and as an audience member during a number of ballgames.
“I’m going to be in multiple scenes in the ballgames,” Bargerstock said, including one pivotal game during which the opposing team objected to Hoy’s team urging the use of hand signals by the umpires.
Hoy was from Houcktown, outside of Arlington, and was one of the first deaf Major League Baseball players. He is credited by some with bringing about the use of signals for “safe” and “ball” calls. He played from 1888 to 1902, most notably with the Cincinnati Reds.
“It’s a feel-good story. It’s about an underdog who fought hard to get to do what he wanted to in life. It’s a hero story,” Risotto told the Murray State University Radio station, WKMS, in February. The interview ends with an open casting call in the Hopkinsville, Kentucky, area.
Though Hoy was from northwest Ohio, Risotto ultimately chose to shoot the film in Kentucky due to the significant tax abatement offered to film producers in the state. The director said he chose Hopkinsville and its Copper Canyon Ranch specifically because it mirrors Ohio’s geography.
Hoy is portrayed in “The Silent Natural” by the deaf actor Miles Barbee, a graduate of the Oregon School for the Deaf. Bargerstock said signing is prevalent throughout the entire movie.
Bargerstock said it was exciting to spend time on the set of a movie, and he was especially intrigued at how the crew filmed each scene from every possible angle.
“It was a very interesting experience. I got excited because it’s something I’ve never done. And it’s an opportunity you just can’t turn down,” Bargerstock said.
Filming has wrapped up, and Risotto intends to release the movie in spring 2019, in line with the start of baseball season.
Bargerstock said the director expressed interest in premiering the film in Hopkinsville in September, although he himself is pushing for a dual debut.
“I’m actually trying to get it to premiere in Findlay,” Bargerstock said.
More photos from the set can be viewed on the Southern Kentucky Film Commission’s Facebook page.