Yes, Indians pitcher Mike Clevinger knows he looks like the kid from “Dazed and Confused.” And he loves it.
“People think it bothers me, but it’s my favorite movie,” said Clevinger, who will start Game 3 of the American League Division Series on Monday.
Clevinger’s boyish face, thin frame and strands of straight dark brown hair that reach his chest but fly up over his cap when his herky-jerky pitching delivery uncoils, give him a resemblance to Mitch Kramer, the 14-year-old protagonist of Richard Linklater’s 1993 stoner classic about the last day before summer break at an Austin high school.
Out of uniform, Clevinger wears paisley shirts that make him look more like a member of Iron Butterfly than the Cleveland Indians. He would fit right in with “Dazed,” set in 1976, and the rock-loving laidback characters played by an ensemble cast that included Ben Affleck and Matthew McConaughey.
Clevinger relates to the teenage mischief and a good hang depicted in the film. Austin’s free-spirited counterculture is similar to the one Clevinger navigated on his skateboard with “a bunch of grom kids” while growing up in Jacksonville, Fla.
“We all had long hair and going around surfing and skating,” he said. “Even sports weren’t around when we were young and skateboarding.”
He was too rebellious and restless for the regimented development of a promising starting pitcher. Despite being the only freshman to make his high school’s varsity roster, Clevinger quit to focus on skateboarding and got a sponsorship from a local bike shop.
He wound up yearning for the fun of baseball, growing four inches, pitching for Seminole Community College, getting drafted by the Angels in 2011 and traded to the Indians in 2014.
He blossomed this season. He went 13-8 with a 3.02 ERA and 207 strikeouts in 200 innings.
He did not get compared with anything related to “Dazed” until his baseball fame increased. He saw the movie for the first time after he graduated college.
“It came on TV, and I was like, ‘How have I not seen this movie?” he said. “It was so comical, about introducing drug testing into even high school sports, and their whole high school scene.”
His favorite parts of the movie are too inappropriate for him to attach his name to, but he enjoys the moment when Kramer heaves a bowling ball through the back window of a parked car to the shock of the older teenagers trying to one-up each other on a joyride.
“They were, like, setting to hype him up,” Clevinger said, “and then they’re like, ‘Oh, [expletive]!'”
Linklater, a Houston native who attended Bellaire High School, played baseball at Sam Houston State University. He has made films that show his love for the sport. He directed a “Bad News Bears” reboot and “Everybody Wants Some!!” about college baseball players in Texas in 1980.
Despite Clevinger’s resemblance to Kramer and fanfare for “Dazed,” Linklater has not reached out to the pitcher. Clevinger thinks it’d be a lot cooler if he did.
“He should,” Clevinger said. “That’d be great. Let him know if he’s interested in a ‘Dazed and Confused 2.’ I’ll be ready.”