The Rookie (2002)

The Rookie movie

Not to be confused with the television series bearing the same name, The Rookie is a film that had been on my to-watch list for a while. It is a story based on the real-life story of Jim Morris who made his Major League debut at age 35. 

The movie begins when Jim Morris is a teenager. Jim’s father serves in the Navy and he moves the family throughout the country, all the while disapproving of his son’s dream of playing Major League Baseball. When the family moves to Big Lake, Texas, Jim is crushed to learn that the town cares nothing for baseball, preferring football instead, and he thus loses out on the opportunity to play high school ball.

Jim does get a chance to continue playing ball when he is drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers. However, a shoulder injury put an end to his dream of making it to the big leagues.

Fast forward a number of years later, and Jim is married with three young children. He still lives in Big Lake, teaching high school science and coaching the high school baseball team, the Owls (a team that, I imagine, he started up himself). The Owls aren’t having a great season, however, largely due to in part to the team’s low morale resulting from little support from the community.

One day after practice, the team catcher offers to play catch with Jim. The catcher is stunned to discover that Jim can still fire an impressive fastball, and it is not long before the rest of the team is let in on the secret. The Owls believe that Jim could possibly pitch in the major leagues and offer him a deal: if the Owls can win district and make the state playoffs, Jim will try out again. Desperate to motivate the team into winning, Jim accepts the deal.

The Owls do end up winning district, and holding up his end of the bargain, Jim shows up to a tryout with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The scouts discover that Jim is able to consistently throw a baseball at 98 mph, and Jim is told that he could be signed to a minor league deal. After much deliberation and discussion with his wife, Jim decides to go, and he is assigned to the minor league Class AA Orlando Rays.

Jim moves through the minors quickly, first getting moved to the Class AAA Durham Bulls, and then finally, he is called up to the majors with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Coincidentally, the Devil Rays are in Arlington, Texas to play the Rangers at the time Jim gets the call, and he calls his family to let them know the good news. Not only does Jim’s family show up for the game, but the players of the high school Owls team rally much of the town to attend the game, as well. Late in the game, with Tampa Bay losing badly, Jim is called in to pitch to Royce Clayton and end the inning. Jim gets a strikeout against Clayton on three straight fastballs. During postgame interviews, Jim notices his father had also come to the game. Jim’s father admits how special it was to be able to see his son play in the majors and apologizes for not supporting Jim before.

I really enjoyed this film. I love that it is based on a true story (I feel a need to do more reading up on Jim Morris now), and I love how it portrays the conflict between pursuing your dreams and trying to be a responsible adult. Definitely a worthwhile family film.

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