Getting into the Mood

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 9, 2000

Sports Editor

There’s nothing to get you into the mood for the ole ballpark better than a great movie about baseball.

There are a lot of great ones out there. I know a lot of folks are fond of the Kevin Costner movies like Bull Durham and Field of Dreams. They’re classics in their own right.

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I could watch either of them a number of times without ever getting tired of seeing Costner step to the plate and have that cute little bat boy look up at him and ask him to hit a homer. In response the star looks back and tells the bat boy "Shut up kid."

I laughed till I cried when I first saw that scene I don’t know why.

Personally I like the feel-good quality of a Field of Dreams a tad bit more, but to tell you the truth, Costner was never one of my favorites. To put it mildly I thought he couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag and a damp one at that.

He got lucky in those two films and strummed some of the most powerful American heartstrings there are – Baseball.

My favorite baseball movie of all time would have to be The Natural staring Robert Redford.

If you can actually watch this movie, baseball fan or no, and actually tell me that you didn’t get little goose pimples up and down your spine then you need to check for a pulse buddy.

Yeah, everybody knows he’s going to hit the homer in the end to win the game. Everyone knows he’s going to do the right thing and go back to the good ole country girl Glenn Close and live Kim Bassinger to den with the vipers, but that’s what makes it pure and simple. And that’s why I like it.

Baseball is simple. It’s pure, and we have to guard against the outside forces in the game trying to take that away from us. If any movie ever portrayed that better I’ve never seen it.

Robert Duvall plays my role if you will. The hard-nosed sports journalist that people can’t really decide wether to like or not. If there was ever a middle of the road guy it had to be Duvall.

You really want to hate him in that movie, but he makes a great point. When he sits down with Roy Hobbs (Redford) towards the end of the movie he explains to him that he’s just the messenger. If he chokes or if he wins it, either way it will make a good story for him.

He’s the guy that writes the stories and in the end he’s really the loser of the bunch. He never experienced the joy of winning a game or the sorrow of losing. He’s just in the middle of the road feeding off others experiences.

Still, there’s a lot of merit in what he is doing also. He does give the story to the public where without the cheering fans and the starry-eyed kids, there wouldn’t be any fantasy or excitement over a bunch of grown men hitting a little white ball around. I guess Duvall’s character can plead that he doesn’t make the story he just writes it.

I think the maker of this movie was trying to win one for the good guys as well.

When it was made back in the early 80’s people were just starting to see how commercial our professional athletes and our professional sports were becoming. How the fat cats, like the ones trying to steal the team away from the old-time manager in The Natural and corrupt the game to fit their own needs.

It’s hard to picture a Roy Hobbs now days. I don’t think it would be possible.

Someone as spectacular as Redford’s character in the Natural would more than likely be gobbled up by the press and money and fame, before he could knock the cover off the ball and win his team the pennant.

So what do we do? Do we create characters like Hobbs and we go to movies to dream of a better time? Nah, just go out to your local little league game sometime. Out there you’ll find a field of dreams every day the ball is in play.

No, there won’t be a game-winning grand slam every time they roll out the white lines, but who knows? It’s that anticipation of the next great play that makes the sport so fantastic. You can go to game after game, but that one play in that one game could make a memory that lasts a lifetime. Now that’s magical.