Even when in the middle of a sturdy MLB career spanning nearly 16 seasons and 11 teams, Todd Zeile was always thinking about the future.
"People who spent time with me would say that I wasn't a prototypical baseball player in that I was never eating, breathing or sleeping baseball," said Zeile, a co-producer, filmmaker and actor for "I AM," which will be released on Tuesday. "I always had my mind on something else, whether it was a business venture or something else. I was always looking for something to do once I was out of the game."
The eternal multitasker, Zeile was never content with just playing baseball, and could hardly fathom the idea of simply lounging around the local golf course. So in 2000, when a friend brought him to the set of NBC's "Ed" to check out the behind-the-scenes action, Zeile found the true calling for his post-playing days.
Described by Zeile as similar to the Academy Award-winning "Crash," the faith-based "I AM" chronicles the intersecting lives of 10 individuals through the lenses of the Ten Commandments. Establishing the perfect balance between the oft-divided secular and religious worlds was a difficult task, according to Zeile. But the film avoids being preachy and delivering a religious message, a negative connotation frequently associated with faith-based movies, and rather aims to simply start a discussion among its viewers.
Conversations with Zeile, on the other hand, will inevitably be littered with sports metaphors, a trait he picked up from his good friend and fellow filmmaker John Ward. A baseball field is used to describe the spectrum of religious beliefs. The one-and-done NCAA tournament is the antonym to life's second chances. The grind of shooting for hours each day for only a few minutes of footage is pretty similar to playing a 162-game season. And the thrill of finally seeing "I AM" released? Kind of like winning a big race.
"It's fulfilling because you never know if it'll resonate with the audience and if they'll get it," Zeile said. "There's an element of competitiveness that rules Hollywood and mirrors sports. For us to fight our way through and get to the finish line, it was really fulfilling when we were finally able to get it done. And for us, we feel like that's a win."