The Rookie (2002 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Lee Hancock|
|Produced by||Mark Ciardi
|Written by||Mike Rich|
|Music by||Carter Burwell|
|Edited by||Eric L. Beason|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
|Box office||$80.7 million|
The Rookie is a 2002 sports drama film directed by John Lee Hancock and produced by Walt Disney Pictures. It is based on the true story of Jim Morris, who had a brief, but famous Major League Baseball career in 1999–2000. The film stars Dennis Quaid, Rachel Griffiths, Jay Hernandez, and Brian Cox.
The film tells the story of Jim Morris, the son of a career Navy man, who moves the family to a small Texas town. Jim is shown to be a very skilled pitcher as a youth, though his father disapproves of Jim's dream of making it to Major League Baseball. It is later mentioned that the town to which Jim's family moved, Big Lake, has never cared for baseball. Thus, he was unable to play baseball in high school. He later gets a chance when he is drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers, but he tears up his shoulder, ending his hopes of achieving his lifelong dream.
Years later in 1999, Morris, married with three children, is a high school science teacher, as well as head baseball coach. His team, the Reagan County Owls, is very unsuccessful with many of his players skilled, but unmotivated, especially with very little community support. One day after practice, the team catcher offers to play catch with Morris. There it is revealed that Jimmy may still have his fastball, and it is soon displayed to the rest of the team. The Owls believe that Jimmy 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, which Jim accepts. Furthermore, the team urges him to throw his fastball in batting practice, which immensely improves their hitting.
The Owls end up winning district and after their final win, the team tells Jim that, since they kept up their end of the deal, it is now his turn to do his part. After the Owls' season ends with a loss in the state tournament, Jim is told of a tryout nearby for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and Jim goes, without telling his wife, afraid that her fear of him re-injuring his shoulder would keep him from going. After his tryout, Jim is told that his fastball is a staggering 98 mph, which is abnormally higher than it was in his younger years (which Jim had estimated was 85–86 mph). The lead scout tells Jim that, despite his advanced age (35), he could be signed to a minor-league deal. Jim's wife finds out after getting two phone messages from the Tampa Bay scouts and she is at first reluctant to let Jim go, citing his home responsibilities, but after seeing how Jim is inspiring their son, Hunter (Angus T. Jones), she allows him to go. Jim tells his father, with whom he still has a cold relationship, of his situation, and his father once again tries to dissuade Jim from trying to achieve his dream again, telling Jim, "It's OK to think about what you want to do until it's time to start doing what you were meant to do."
He is initially assigned to the minor league Class AA Orlando Rays (now the Montgomery Biscuits) but quickly moves up to the AAA Durham Bulls. Concerned for his family due to mounting bills (the pay in the minor leagues being low) and unhappy that some of the organization's younger prospects view him as a publicity stunt and mock his age, Jimmy decides to give it up and come home. But his wife Lorri talks him out of it, not wanting Jim to give up again. Jim gets inspired again when he watches a Little League game one night, remembering the same love for baseball he had as a kid.
In September Jim is told that the Major League club has called him up, and that they will be playing in Texas against the Rangers. Jim calls his family, who in turn informs the town. Advising his wife of the dress code in the majors, Jim finds his sports coat, a necktie and his St. Rita necklace hanging in his locker. St. Rita is the saint of impossible dreams. His family, high school players and many townspeople go to the game. Jim impresses many of the coaches in warm-ups with his fastball, and late in the game, with Tampa Bay losing badly, Jim is called into the game to pitch to Royce Clayton and end the inning. Jim ends up striking out Clayton on 3 straight fastballs. After the game, Jim gets interviewed by the press, being the oldest MLB rookie in over 40 years. During the interview, Jim notices his father had also come to the game. Jim's father finally admits that he is proud of what Jim has done and also apologizes for never supporting him. Jim thanks him and gives him the ball with which he had gotten the strikeout, and the two finally repair their relationship. Jim then meets with his family and all the townspeople who had come to the game, applauding Jim on his amazing success story.
The final scene shows the Big Lake high school trophy case, which has Jim's Major League jersey prominently displayed. It is then mentioned that Jim would go on to pitch in the majors for 2 seasons before retiring and returning to teaching in Texas.
- Dennis Quaid as Jim Morris
- Rachel Griffiths as Lorri Morris
- Jay Hernandez as Joaquin 'Wack' Campos
- Beth Grant as Olline
- Angus T. Jones as Hunter Morris
- Brian Cox as Jim Morris Sr.
- Rick Gonzalez as Rudy Bonilla (Owls pitcher)
- Chad Lindberg as Joe David West
- Angelo Spizzirri as Joel De La Garza (Owls catcher)
- Royce D. Applegate as Henry
- Russell Richardson as Brooks
- Raynor Scheine as Frank
- David Blackwell as Cal
- Blue Deckert as Baseball Scout Dave Patterson
- Danny Kamin as Durham Manager Mac (as Daniel Kamin)
- Mike Smith as Fan
The movie received generally favorable reviews with Metacritic giving it a 72 out of 100 based on 31 reviews.
Real life differences
- The film has Morris making his debut against the Texas Rangers, striking out Royce Clayton on three pitches, with the last strike coming on a full swing. In reality, Morris struck out Clayton on four pitches. The third swing was a foul ball, but because the filmmakers were working on a very tight schedule—the scene was shot at the actual Ballpark in Arlington, following an actual game, with much of the crowd still in the stands—it was determined in advance that there wouldn't be time to institute the numerous safety precautions necessary to protect actors, crew, and equipment from a flying baseball. The initial plan was to replace the foul ball with a ball (a pitch outside the strike zone, at which the batter does not swing), but it was later decided that the scene played better with only three pitches.
- The film portrays Morris as a resident of Big Lake, but he never actually lived in the town. During his time teaching at Reagan County High School, he lived in San Angelo and commuted to work daily.
- The film shows Morris teaching chemistry, and a broadcaster calls him a chemistry teacher. In reality, he taught physical science.
- The scene with the radar sign, which was copied by ESPN in a commercial with Bobby Valentine taking the part of Morris, never actually happened.
- In the film, the school that Morris teaches at is named Big Lake High School; in real life, the school is in the town of Big Lake but its actual name is Reagan County High School.
- The Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Texas Rangers uniforms worn in the movie are incorrect for the era in which the film takes place. This was a deliberate choice by the filmmakers. By using the 2001 uniforms, rather than the period-accurate 1999 uniforms, the filmmakers were able to film second unit footage of an actual game between the Texas Rangers and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and intercut that footage with footage of the actors wearing the same uniforms.
- The bullpen in which Jim warms up prior to his first major league appearance against the Texas Rangers is actually the Rangers' bullpen; the visitors' bullpen at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington was much less visible at the time.
- In the film, when Jim is called up to the majors, a teammate named Brooks is called up with him. In real life, Steve Cox was the player called up with Jim. Brooks was a fictional character created for the film.
- Alex Rodriguez appeared as a member of the Texas Rangers, but in 1999, he was really a member of the Seattle Mariners.
The Rookie was filmed almost entirely in North and Central Texas. Apart from scenes filmed at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, locations included the following:
- The city of Thorndale, Texas, was used predominantly in the opening half of the film as the small town of Big Lake. Thorndale High School's interior, exterior parts of the building and baseball field were used for Big Lake High School's campus. Thorndale's Main Street and downtown area was also used extensively in the film.
- Neighboring Thrall High School in Thrall, Texas, was dressed for several differing scenes, including scenes of several different "away" baseball games filmed on the school's field. Thrall's then-recently completed football stadium stood in as Big Lake's. Thrall's old football field, dressing rooms and recreation pavilion were dressed as an oil refinery's outlay in a deleted scene viewable on the DVD's special features.
- A scene shot in front of a motel supposedly in Florida was actually filmed in front of what is now a Best Western in Taylor, Texas.
Most of the population portrayed in this movie of Big Lake, Texas were fictional. Only the baseball team and those directly connected were based on real people.
The games with him on the Bulls were shot in Round Rock, Texas at the Dell Diamond.