Until he met Rinku and Dinesh, J.B. Bernstein, the man whose story is told in the movie Million Dollar Arm, was living the bachelor’s life to the fullest. He was driving fancy sports cars, dating models, courting potential athletes, and generally partying. Then fatherhood changed his life.
Fatherhood first came in the form of becoming a father figure to two young unlikely baseball heroes from India. Then came love, marriage, and the birth of a daughter. Bernstein’s story is an almost perfect narrative manifestation of what happens to all of us as we grow into being parents. Our heart grows and our understanding of the meaning of life expands. Cue music. Yes, Bernstein’s story is the perfect stuff of movie magic.
I had the pleasure of speaking with both Jon Hamm, who portrays Bernstein, and J.B. Bernstein himself.
Said Hamm, of a moment in Bernstein’s life that was brought to life in the movie, “[Bernstein] realizes that [Rinku and Dinesh] somehow feel like he’s disappointed in them. And the honest truth, and J.B. tells this story as well, is that, you know, he felt such responsibility for these kids by that point in their life and their career that the idea of him disappointing them somehow was soul-crushing to him. He’s like, ‘You could never disappoint me. That’s impossible.’ Because he’s their dad at that point, a surrogate dad.”
At the end of Million Dollar Arm, it’s revealed that Bernstein eventually marries the woman he falls for in the movie, Brenda, (portrayed by Lake Bell) and together they have a beautiful daughter, Delphine.
“With my current family,” Bernstein confesses, “I’ve actually gotten rid of two Porsches. We got rid of the Carrera, and I couldn’t even keep the four-door. I couldn’t even keep the Panamera, and we have what I like to call our ‘tank,’ our Volvo. That’s the only thing our kid’s allowed in.”
When I asked about any advice he might give to other dads, Bernstein said, “Delphine’s only 3 so I don’t know if I’m qualified to give advice just yet after only three years. I’m still probably taking advice, but having Rinku and Dinesh live with me gave me a taste of fatherhood. It reminded me of the importance of family. It reminded me of the importance of being surrounded by people that you love and that love you and of being able to take pride in other people’s accomplishments. A lot of the rudimentary lessons of life came back into focus. I think in a lot of ways I started being a parent, although a baptism by fire with these guys, and now with Delphine, the best advice I can give to any parent I think is to treasure your time. It’s almost inconceivable that she’s 3 years old. It’s almost inconceivable that this was 2008-2009 when these guys were living with me. The time goes so fast and there’s no way you can possibly cherish your time enough with your kids. So I guess that’s the best advice I can give. Other than that, I’m into taking advice so if you have any just text me.”
Sometimes it takes profound moments in our lives to bring things into focus. Time does whip by quickly. We all tell ourselves we have to cherish our time with our kids, but it can be so difficult sometimes to fully appreciate this in every moment.
From talking to Bernstein in person and from the testimony given about him by others, this experience was truly life changing and one that did make him rich, but not necessarily in the way he thought it would. In a group interview, J.B. said, “This is a really personal journey for us … For my story, I’m excited for people to realize it’s never too late to change. It’s never too late to be a better person. It’s not that I was a bad person. I think I was somewhat one-dimensional … I was very myopic. Thanks to these guys, thanks to my family I have a much different view.” Fatherhood, whether being a surrogate father or being a father to your own child, is an experience that will change your life. How it changes your life is up to you, but hopefully, dads will be inspired by J.B.’s story and realize that while fatherhood is a great responsibility, it is also one of great joy. Hopefully, we will all take his advice and cherish the moments we have with our kids, because the time does go by so fast.
Million Dollar Arm is playing now in theaters everywhere.