Starting role: Actor Lowe a true fan of game

Star dishes on being Reds fan in Hollywood

Starting role: Actor Lowe a true fan of game

Just how important is the All-Star Game to Rob Lowe? For starters, the 51-year-old actor best known for his roles on "Parks and Recreation" and " The West Wing" has made one All-Star Game-related quote his mantra.

"When I was younger, [former Padres and Cardinals shortstop] Garry Templeton was this amazing player who shockingly didn't get voted into the All-Star Game starting lineup [one season]," Lowe recalls. "The manager still put him on the roster, but he refused to go and told a reporter, 'If I ain't startin', I ain't departin'.' I use that phrase to this day. If someone asks me if I'm going to the Emmys even if I'm not nominated, I say, 'If I ain't startin', I ain't departin'.'"

A native of Dayton, Ohio, Lowe plans to depart for Great American Ball Park for July's festivities in nearby Cincinnati. Earlier this season, Major League Baseball spoke with the lifelong Reds fan about the role baseball plays in his life.

You grew up a Reds fan. Were you one of those kids who would literally sleep in his favorite team gear?

Yes, but it wasn't that easy. Nobody knew how to license anything back then, so we'd have to make shirts ourselves. I made a Joe Morgan No. 8 shirt, and I wore that thing everywhere.

What's the greatest Reds moment you ever witnessed?

I went to a World Series game in 1972. I was at Riverfront Stadium for Johnny Bench's last grand slam. I got to see George Foster hit an upper-deck home run. And there was the time Pete Rose hit a first-pitch, line-drive home run. I'll also never forget what I think was my first game ever, when I saw Jackie Robinson getting honored on the field.

How devoted were you to the team?

It was all about baseball cards back then, and you had to work to find the ones you wanted. I ended up collecting an entire Reds team. The coolest piece of memorabilia I had was a tennis-ball can filled with dirt from the Riverfront Stadium warning track. My dad was a big lawyer in town and he knew somebody who knew somebody and was able to get me a tour on the field. I scooped up a bunch of the dirt and took it with me.

So in all the games you went to, you never caught a foul ball?

I came very close to a Pete Rose ball once, but just couldn't quite get to it in time. It bounced off the hand of a guy near me and rolled into the tunnel. The fans around me and I started chasing after it like we were in a cartoon. It was pretty comical.

What's the greatest overall moment that you've ever seen at a ballpark?

It was probably Kirk Gibson's home run in the 1988 World Series. I have to admit, though, that I thought the Dodgers were done; I was making my way up the aisle to leave and heard the crack of the bat, and turned to see the ball flying out.

You moved to California to pursue an acting career when you were a teenager. Was that a tough adjustment for a Reds fan?

Oh, yeah. I never saw any Reds highlights on the news. I just had to look forward to them being the "Game of the Week." Remember when there was only that one national game every week? As I got older, there was a phone number that I could call to get all the scores for out-of-town teams. You had to hate the Dodgers; it was the law. The Reds played them in one of the first games I went to at Dodger Stadium, and the players were all around to sign autographs. Tommy Lasorda was there too, so I went up to him and said, "We're going to beat you today." He just looked at me and said, "We'll see about that, kid."

Do you follow baseball closely these days?

It's hard for me to get to games since baseball season is also prime TV shooting season, so I use the apps and watch "SportsCenter" all the time.

Have you ever delayed filming a show in order to watch a game?

I save it for the truly big moments: a potential no-hitter, a late-season pennant run or a playoff game. I can't tell you how many World Series games I've watched on the set while a studio executive got increasingly frustrated. During a season on "The West Wing," Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were in their home run chase, and the cast was always stopping work to watch.

If you could eat hot dogs in the bleachers during a game with any three people from baseball history, who would they be?

I would start with Marty Brennaman, whom I just loved hearing call Reds games. Nobody is funnier or a better storyteller than Pete Rose, and I'd use any excuse to hang out with him. My third pick would have to be Joe Morgan. I loved watching him play for the Reds and I'm all about the Big Red Machine.

Your passion got you into some hot water on Twitter during the World Series last year. What was that about?

I'm very active on Twitter, especially when it comes to talking about sports. I was live-Tweeting during the World Series and the Royals lost big in that opening game. They seemed like deer in headlights, so I tweeted what I thought and man, did they react! I went to a game a few days later in San Francisco and ran into Eric Stonestreet from "Modern Family," who is a huge Royals fan. He gave me a hard time and took a gag photo throttling me -- at least I hope it was a gag.

Acting seems to have worked out for you, but do you ever secretly wish that you'd made it as a ballplayer instead?

The last organized baseball I played was probably in Pony League when I was 15. I just love watching the game now. I love the subtleties, the nuances. There's no other game like it.

Craig Tomashoff is a Los Angeles-based writer and producer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.