Hal Sparks, center, the father of the Zoltan sign, poses Wednesday with Neil Walker and Rod Barajas, right, in the Pirates dugout at PNC Park.
By Dan Majors Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
How could the Pirates lose with Zoltan in the house?
Hal Sparks -- the actor who played the part of the cult figure in the 2000 comedy "Dude, Where's My Car?" -- joined the 33,935 fans in PNC Park for Wednesday's matinee game against the Chicago Cubs, the team he grew up cheering.
"But obviously I'm a Pirates fan today, because this is just too awesome," Mr. Sparks said after throwing out the honorary first pitch.
The Pirates players have adopted the character of Zoltan as their signature good-luck charm in what has become a surprising and fun run at respectability after a record-setting string of 19 losing seasons.
Whenever a player rips an extra-base hit, the players flash each other the sign of Zoltan -- forming the letter "Z" with their hands -- the way the cult members in the movie do. Fans have joined the craze, making the sign and wearing T-shirts bearing the hands.
Zoltan reigns huge in Pittsburgh, even though the character was a relatively minor part of Mr. Sparks' career.
Mr. Sparks, 42, was raised in Chicago and started his career as a comedian for the city's famous Second City. He later moved to Los Angeles, where he landed roles in numerous television and film productions.
"When I read the script, I'd never heard anything titled that way, and I knew it would be one of those movies that become part of the lexicon. In the silliest sense," he said.
He originally auditioned for the starring part played by Ashton Kutcher.
"The studio knew they wanted him, but they wanted to line up alternates," Mr. Sparks said. "The Zoltan character was not actually in the original script. He was spoken of in hushed tones and you never saw him. After I auditioned, they retooled the script where you actually got to see Zoltan."
After making the movie, Mr. Sparks went on to appear in "Spider-Man 2," "Talk Soup," "Queer As Folk" and episodes of VH-1's "I Love the '80s." He's currently appearing in the Disney series "Lab Rats" and live in Stephanie Miller's Sexy Liberal Comedy Tour.
"I'm in an enviable position," he said. "People come up to me all the time and go, 'I love your show,' and I have to go, 'Which one?' "
In Pittsburgh, the answer is "Dude, Where's My Car?"
"I learned about it just a couple of weeks ago, when I started getting all these tweets on my Twitter account with people tagging me with all these hashtags and stuff saying 'Hal Sparks should come down as Zoltan.' There was just a line of them," Mr. Sparks said. "I responded to a couple of them going, 'I think that's fantastic,' 'That's hilarious,' and then it got to the point where it just blew up. So I called my publicist and said, 'We have to get in contact with them and let them know I'd be game to come out.' Apparently, their publicist was just hours away from calling mine, so it was growing organically."
Coming to Pittsburgh wasn't a hardship, he said, because his girlfriend, Summer Soltis, is from North Huntingdon.
"Her family is all huge Pirates fans, and they go to games all the time," said Mr. Sparks, sporting a Pirates jersey while seated with them in the club's 200 level. "We invited everybody to come down to the game on the day I'm going to throw the first pitch out, and they were like, 'We already got tickets.' "