I never watched Little Big League while I was growing up, and this weekend, I decided it was time to rectify this. Little Big League is a 1994 film that tells the story of Billy Heywood, a twelve-year-old baseball fan who inherits the Minnesota Twins from his grandfather, Thomas Heywood. Thomas’s will states that Billy is the sole owner of the team and that the team executives are to help him until he is old enough to run the team by himself. Billy loves baseball and knows a lot about the game and the players, but he soon realizes that being an owner is not as straightforward as he thought it might be. He clashes with the team manager, George O’Farrell, who tells Billy off, refusing to take orders from a kid. Billy fires O’Farrell, but he can’t find any other manager who is willing to work for someone so young. Seeing no other options, he appoints himself as the new manager, with the approval of his mother and the Commissioner of Baseball.
Unsurprisingly, things are not easy for Billy, especially in the beginning. He has to deal with the skepticism and resentment of the players, the media, and the fans. After a rough first week, Billy finds his stride and encourages the Twins players to have fun, which results in the team starting to win some ballgames. The excitement wears off as the season drags on, however.
Throughout the season, Billy finds himself facing tough decisions, such as trading or releasing players, setting lineups and strategies, and handling conflicts and injuries. He also has to balance his personal life, including his schoolwork and his friends, and he is more troubled than he is willing to admit by his mother’s romance with star first baseman, Lou Collins, who is also his idol and mentor. Billy feels jealous and betrayed by Lou, and he benches him for a minor batting slump. The team, feeling the effects of Billy’s moods, start to lose games and fall behind in the division race.
As things start to fall apart, Billy becomes increasingly agitated, resentful, and anxious. After some heart-to-heart talks with his mother, Billy realizes that he can’t do everything by himself and that he needs to trust and respect his players and coaches. He also realizes that he can’t control his mother’s love life and he decides instead to be happy for her and Lou. He reconciles with Lou and reinstates him as a starter. He also apologizes to his friends for neglecting them and invites them to join him in the dugout for the final game of the season.
The final game is against the Seattle Mariners, who are led by Ken Griffey Jr. (played by himself). The game is very close and exciting, with both teams scoring runs and making great plays. In extra innings, with two outs and two runners on base, Lou comes up to bat against Randy Johnson (also played by himself). Lou hits a deep fly ball to center field, where Griffey makes a spectacular catch at the wall, robbing Lou of a home run and ending the game. The Twins lose 6-5 and miss the playoffs by one game.
Billy is disappointed but proud of his team’s performance. He thanks his players and coaches for their hard work and dedication, but he also announces that he is quitting as manager after the season and that pitching coach Mac MacNally will take his place. He says that he wants to enjoy being a kid again and that he hopes to see them all again someday. The film ends with Billy getting called back out to the field by an appreciative crowd.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching this film. The plot was enjoyable, and Luke Edwards, who plays Billy, did an impressive job in the role. Even though the film as a whole is, of course, on the cheesy, sentimental side (it is a kids movie, after all), it also does a good job of showing how the pressures of adulthood can mount on a kid, especially a kid who takes on the responsibilities of running a Major League Baseball team. Definitely a worthwhile family movie.