I miss baseball!
I know that the regular MLB season being delayed (or even — gasp! — cancelled) is hardly the worst thing that we have to deal with right now but I still really miss watching baseball! I miss the swing of the bat, the sounds of the stadium, and I even miss getting upset over the Rangers having a disappointing season. I’ve been dealing with my grief by watching old games and a lot of baseball movies. It’s not the same as getting to watch a real game but I guess it’s as good as things are going to get right now.
When the quarantine stated, one of the first baseball movies that I watched was The Rookie. Starring Dennis Quaid (who gives a really good performance), The Rookie is based on the true story of Jim Morris, a former minor league pitcher who retired from playing the game after injuring his arm and took a job coaching baseball for Reagan County High School in Big Lake, Texas. In 1999, Morris promised his players that if they managed to win the district championship, he would try out for a major league baseball team. When his team went on to win the championship, Morris honored his side of the bargain by trying out for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Even though no one expected Morris to make it onto the team, he was given a chance because it was felt that it would be good publicity. The 35 year-old Morris shocked everyone by throwing a 98 mph fastball. The team started Morris out in the minors and then, when the roster expanded in September, called him up to the majors. At an age when many other players were calling it quits, Morris made his major league debut at the Ballpark in Arlington and struck out Royce Clayton.
Though I’m sure it probably takes a lot of liberties with Morris’s story, I really like The Rookie. It’s a really sweet movie that was filmed on location in Texas. It’s one of my favorite baseball movies because it captures everything that I love about the game. It’s about more than just who wins or who struck who out. It’s about teamwork and healthy competition and fairplay. (Or, at least, that’s what baseball should be about. That’s one reason why the Astros cheating scandal hurts so much. For me, it’s not just that the first Texas team to win the World Series did so dishonestly. It’s that what they did goes against the spirit of baseball.) I liked that the movie is as much about Jim coaching his high school team as it was about him eventually getting to play a few games in the majors. The whole reason that Jim even tried out for the Devil Rays was to keep a promise to his high school team and, in a perfect world, that’s what baseball would be all about.
The Rookie is not just a baseball movie. It’s also a movie about never giving up on your dreams. Jim Morris may be happy coaching high school baseball but he’s never stopped thinking about how he once dreamed of playing in the major leagues. Even he’s surprised when he discovers that he’s still a good pitcher. (My favorite scene is him throwing a baseball at one of those radars that tells how fast you’re driving. He only thinks he’s throwing a 78 mph fastball and it’s only after he drives off that the full sign lights up and reveals that he was throwing 98 mph.) When Jim makes his major league debut, it’s real stand up and cheer moment.
Here’s hoping that we’ll all be back at the ballpark soon!