Monday, September 28, 2015

BUCKET LIST UPDATE No. 236: Watch “The Rookie” (2002)

Like a lot of people, I love a good baseball movie. One that I’d heard a lot about for over 10 years, but had never taken the time to watch, was 2002’s “The Rookie.” I put it on my bucket list a few years ago, and finally took the time to watch it on Friday.

Many of you will remember “The Rookie,” which has gained the reputation as being one of the best baseball movies of all time. Produced by Walt Disney Pictures, “The Rookie” was directed by John Lee Hancock and starred Dennis Quaid, Rachel Griffiths, Brian Cox, Jay Hernandez and Beth Grant. “The Rookie” was officially released on March 29, 2002, not long before the start of the 2002 Major League Baseball season.

For those of you who haven’t seen “The Rookie,” it’s about a former standout baseball pitcher who suffers a career-ending shoulder injury. He later becomes a high school teacher and baseball coach and promises his team that he’ll try out for a Major League team if they win the district championship. They do, and he tries out for and ends up in the Big Leagues as a rookie while in his late 30s.

The coolest thing about this movie is that it’s based on the true story of real life Major League pitcher Jim Morris, who is portrayed in the movie by Dennis Quaid. Morris was born in January 1964 in Brownwood, Texas and was drafted by both the Yankees and the Brewers in the early 1980s. Repeated arm injuries kept the young Morris from making it out of the Single-A minor league level.

Just like in the movie, Morris went on to become a high school science teacher and baseball coach at Reagan County High School in Big Lake, Texas. He promised his baseball team that he’d try out for a Major League team if they won the district title, something the school’s baseball program had never done up to that point. As it turned out, they won the district championship and Morris tried out for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and ended up signing with the team.

Morris made his official Major League debut on Sept. 18, 1999 when he took the field for the Devil Rays in a game against the Texas Rangers. He continued on with the Devil Rays into the next season before making his final appearance on May 9, 2000 in a game against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. In all, he pitched in 21 Major League games.

I was also interested to learn that Morris has written a book about his experiences called “The Oldest Rookie: Big League Dreams from a Small-Town Guy.” Co-authored by Joel Engel, this book was published in July 2007. You can find copies of it for sale, relatively cheap, online.

In the end, how many of you have ever watched “The Rookie”? How many of you have read Morris's book? What did you think about them? What other baseball movies would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

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