Monday, September 15, 2008

Small Ball, the movie

Movie critic is a role we usually leave to others. But a brief post today in praise of "Small Ball: A Little League Story."

This is a documentary, which first aired on PBS in 2004. (It's available on DVD. I picked it up at my public library). The filmmakers followed a talented Little League team from Aptos, California on an emotional eight-week journey that leads to the Little League World Series.

I found myself developing attachments to several of the kid players who take the games seriously, but for the most part not too seriously, especially slugger Tyler Raymond and catcher Drew McCauley. More interesting were the parents. They are a good group, wanting the best of the high-stakes experience for their kids. But they are emotionally invested to the max. One mom speaks of feeling ill from anxiety on the day of games. Others speak about the experience being more (and in some ways, less) than they had expected.

The adult hero of the film is former big-leaguer Mark Eichhorn, who is the team pitching coach and whose son Kevin is a star hitter and pitcher. Eichhorn seems to take it a lot less seriously than the other adults and, probably for that reason, the kids light up when he's around.

One snippet from the film stays with me. A comment by Tyler Raymond, who so earnestly says of the parents: Yes, they're great and yes, they want what's best for us. But sometimes they think they're part of the game. And they're not.

Four stars.

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