The Rookie

| April 2, 2002

It begins as any good fairytale should, with a dreamer, two nuns and St. Rita, the patron saint of lost causes. Somehow director John Lee Hancock (My Dog Skip), and screenwriter Mike Rich (Finding Forrester) were able to turn what could have been a trite and overly sentimental look at a high school teacher turned major league pitcher, into a beautiful folktale encompassing everything American.
The movie is based on the true-life story of Jim Morris, who incidentally has a walk-on role as an umpire in the flick. Jim was a science teacher in Texas who coached a rag-tag baseball team; his field had no grass on it, and his team had no wins. That all changed when Jim and his team agreed that if they won the Division Finals he would try out for a professional pitching position (and they found out what will drive away the deer eating up all the grass seed). With three children and a wife still in Texas, Jim goes on the road and eventually pitches for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for two years, even though he’s twice as old as the other players. While the film runs a little long, the stunning visuals more than make up for it.
Instead of worrying about the exact words used every time anyone spoke to Jim, from his childhood to his later years, the movie relies on video montages, with background music ranging from Mel Torme to John Hiatt to House of Pain to Willie Nelson. From the first glint of sunset through a hand cupping a baseball, this film is shot with such canny, gorgeous style and magnificent precision that Jim’s story becomes our own. His difficulties with his military father, his love for baseball even when he has no field or glove, his refusal to accept middle age, all become ours.
As Jim (played by Dennis Quaid), waits at the professional baseball tryouts, he colors with his young daughter, changes his baby’s diaper, and consoles his eight-year-old son who is devastated when his father is not called to pitch. Shockingly, instead of his pitching arm growing weaker as he aged, when he is called to pitch Jim proves his arm has increased velocity, up to 98 m.p.h. “You know how many guys can pitch 98 miles per hour?” Jim asks his wife, then answers his own question, “You can count them on one hand.” This unbelievable information melds perfectly with the scenery, the music, and the repetitive actions (such as Jim throwing the ball to his high-school-catcher for fun and finding joy in it again) to create a real life fairy tale.
Jim is a modern-day Paul Bunyan, the Cinderella of baseball, the Aladdin for Americans, and who could ask for more than a fairytale come true?

About the Author:

Filed in: Video and DVD

Comments are closed.