Archive for the ‘Video’ Category

Movie Trailer for “The Perfect Game”

Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” (As Interpreted By A 21-Year-Old Minor League Pitcher)

Via today’s Roundup at The Big Lead comes this video of Palm Beach Cardinals Casey Mulligan doing his best to entertain the crowd during a recent rain delay:

I like that as you’re listening to all the adults laugh at Mulligan’s “Thriller” dance, one little kid who doesn’t get the joke pipes up with the one question everyone always wants to know about the tarp: can you use that thing as a slip and slide? (To answer your question, dear child: yes.)

Mulligan’s dance moves clearly leave something to be desired. Good thing he’s a decent reliever (1.16 ERA, 69 strikeouts in 46.2 innings at the A and A+ levels this season) and shouldn’t have to quit his day job anytime soon.

Bus Leagues Q&A with baseball documentarian John Fitzgerald

johnfitzgeraldWe’re big fans of filmmaker John Fitzgerald. His films capture the little moments in sub-major-league baseball that we love to see. His first film, The Emerald Diamond, follows the creation of the Irish national baseball team, and its gradual climb to respectability on the European scene. His second effort, Playing for Peanuts, takes the viewer inside a season in independent baseball, with all of the attendant pitfalls and simple joys that go along with a fly-by-night league.

John was kind enough to enlighten me about the ups and downs of independent filmmaking. Read his answers to my questions below.

Bus Leagues: You seem to have a fondness for the underdog – one that we share. Have you ever been tempted to cover a more popular subject with a built-in audience?

John Fitzgerald: Absolutely. You’re right that I do like underdog stories, but I’m always open to stories about all subjects, big and small. Although, I did think that a story about Ireland and a story about minor league baseball would have large enough audiences to support a film or TV show. I was wrong in both cases.

BL: Playing for Peanuts captured the essence of everything we love about the lower levels of professional baseball. Do the players ever remember it fondly, or do they just want to get out?

JF: I think the players enjoyed it. I’m not sure if it was the players or the situation, but everyone seemed to have a great sense of humor about the whole thing. There were times where they just wanted to get out of there, but there was an overall acceptance of the situation and a sense that they’d be telling stories about their time with the Peanuts for years to come.

BL: Your edits and choices always move the story along in compelling fashion. Where did you learn filmmaking?

JF: Thank you. One of my friends – cinematographer Bill Winters, who also worked on Emerald Diamond and Playing for Peanuts – went to NYU film school. I learned a lot from helping him on his student films. As far as editing, I’m self-taught.

BL: It seems like your cameras were always around when something kooky happened. Did you develop a sixth sense for where to be at any given moment?

JF: I’d like to say we could sense when something weird was about to happen, but the league was a circus. If you had a camera turned on, you were bound to get something interesting.

BL: Was there anything you didn’t catch that you wish you could have included?

JF: Yes. On the final game of the regular season, Tug Gillingham hit a walk-off homer in extra innings. I believe it was his only professional home run and I think it was the only walk-off HR for the Peanuts that season. Unfortunately, it was the second game of a long and rainy doubleheader and I had sent the crew home to rest up for the upcoming playoff series. We were exhausted and running on fumes so it had to be done, but it would’ve been great to have that moment on camera. Although in retrospect, I’m not sure it would have added much to the narrative of the TV show.

BL: Was it difficult to find the humor in what was a basically bleak situation for the Peanuts?

JF: I don’t think it was a bleak situation for the players. Like I said, they had a sense of humor about it, so that made it easier to film… However, I do think it was a bleak situation for the six cities that hosted the South Coast League. The fans and the cities really got screwed financially and emotionally.

BL: Your film about Irish national baseball, The Emerald Diamond, had a gift-wrapped rags to riches storyline. What led you to that story?

JF: I found the Irish team’s website and I wanted to play. It turns out, I wasn’t eligible to play, but I was intrigued by the story. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I was in Dublin filming the first interviews for the documentary.

BL: It’s hard to judge the relative skill levels of players on film. Did you see anyone during the making of either film that you thought had major-league potential?

JF: There were no MLB prospects in Ireland, although it wouldn’t have surprised me if guys like Joe Kealty or Chris Gannon (both products of the Boston College baseball program) or Brendan Bergerson (U of West Virginia) ended up playing independent minor league baseball. The window of opportunity for those guys is probably closed now, but they were very talented players.

In Peanuts, there were three former major leaguers – Mike Caruso, Curtis Goodwin and Desi Wilson. Caruso definitely could have played major league baseball again, but I don’t know if he was prepared to do so. Aside from that, there were several guys that were in their mid-20s that probably could have made it if the circumstances were right – Steve Garrabrants, Jon Zeringue and Jasha Balcom. Zeringue was a big prospect with Arizona – his name used to be mentioned along with Conor Jackson and Carlos Quentin, but he never made it past AA. A lot of times that stuff depends on injuries, age and a player’s agent. I have no doubt Jon Zeringue could bat .240 with 12 HR as a major leaguer right now. Unfortunately, he made it back to AA when he was signed by Oakland during the show and he was in spring training camp with the Dodgers this season, but I believe he is out of baseball now.

BL: I was able to find Emerald Diamond on Amazon.com, and you sell Playing for Peanuts at your website. Has it been difficult finding distribution for these projects?

JF: I’ve tried to find distribution, but it hasn’t worked out. So self-distribution is the only other option.

BL: How do you finance these sorts of DIY projects in the first place?

JF: Emerald Diamond was financed with credit cards (I don’t recommend it). Playing for Peanuts was financed on credit cards and investments from family and friends.

BL: The economy’s been kind of shaky. Do you have another project on tap, or do you have to lay low for a while?

JF: I don’t think the market for indy DVDs and TV shows will come back for a long time – if it ever does come back. The economy is in bad shape and the distribution model is shifting from DVDs to downloads… The end result is that it’s just not safe to put money into traditional media projects.

I’m working on a new web project called SmallBallUSA.com. The goal is to provide something like an interactive digital documentary for every affiliated and independent minor league team in the US and Canada. The scope of the project is enormous, but I’m going to move forward and avoid spending money on it until I know it’s a viable idea.

BL: Do you get out to a lot of minor-league games? Which teams are your favorites?

JF: I don’t really have a favorite team – I do like checking out Atlantic League games because I’m in NY and there are a lot of guys in that league that have played at a very high level.

I haven’t been to a minor league game this season. I’m hoping to change that soon.

If we can get John away from his computer for one night and out to a live ballgame, we’ll consider this season of Bus Leagues an unqualified success. But we hope he won’t be out too long. SmallBallUSA sounds like our kind of site.

Thanks, John!

Jacoby Ellsbury Is The Fastest Kid Alive, Part II

Jacoby Ellsbury’s daring steal of home against the New York Yankees happened several days ago, but because related searches have brought many people to Bus Leagues since then, I thought it might be a good idea to post video of it here. YouTube has, as you might expect, been scrubbed clean, but Daily Motion had a quality clip of what just might be the most exciting play in baseball.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “untitled“, posted with vodpod

Red Sox Monster was all about Ellsbury’s thirty-yard dash from the time it happened, including a nice breakdown of the various factors leading up to it.

One thing I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere (although I admittedly don’t watch or read nearly as much sports news as I used to) is that this is the second time in three seasons that Andy Pettitte got burned on a straight steal of home. As documented on Awful Announcing, Toronto’s Aaron Hill (a former New Hampshire Fisher Cat) got him on May 29, 2007. That play was arguably more embarrassing – with Ellsbury’s speed, you expected him to steal home someday. Hill, not so much.

The really surprising thing, at least to me, is that this continues to happen even though Pettitte is one of the best pitchers of the last 35 years when it comes to picking off baserunners.  I think ESPN said that he was second in that category since 1974, which makes you wonder how he has allowed two players in recent years to steal home on him.

Things I Never Thought I’d Post: Episode 1

I have a google alert set up with the nebulous search parameters of “minor league baseball”, and it coagulates everything into a daily email to me showing top stories with those words in it. I followed one such link to a blog called Plethora, which talked about an Alabama song from the 1990s that’s about following a minor-league ball team.

Feathered hair and country music… not my usual cup of Schlitz, but I can’t deny that the lyrics have Bus Leagues written all over them.

Quad Cities River Bandits Star in “Sugar”

sugarI love a good formulaic feel-good baseball movie as much as the next guy. Especially when the premise is inventive, like it was in “Field of Dreams”. But when you get to the more Disney-esque types of films, I tend to lose interest – I feel like I’ve seen it before, as the plucky loser makes good.

Sounds like the latest baseball film, “Sugar”, is a more realistic look at how baseball winnows its talent pool. It’s the story of a Dominican pitcher who plays well enough to make it out of the Republic and onto a minor-league roster. In the Disney version, Miguel “Sugar” Santos would suffer a mid-career setback, turn things around, fall in love, and win his major league debut.

But this movie isn’t about beating the odds. It’s about real life. From the reviews I’ve read, Sugar finds out he’s good, but not great. So he tops out in the minors, and has to figure out what to do with his life after baseball dead-ends. It might sound depressing, but this film is made by the production team that created the fantastic film “Half Nelson“, which gave us a drug-addicted teacher and a disadvantaged student who make small but important differences in one another’s lives. If this story is treated with the same even-handed approach, it should be gripping.

The part that interested me from a Bus Leagues perspective was my attempt to find out what minor-league ballparks might have been used in the filming. I know from the movie’s press kit that it was shot in the Dominican, Arizona, Iowa, and the Bronx. The only info I could find was about the Iowa location:

Once the action in the film moves to the U.S., the filmmakers wanted to be just as accurate in their depiction of life among minor league players. To find the home for the Single-A team that marks the apex of Miguel’s career, they spent days driving around Iowa. They eventually decided on Davenport, a small city on the banks of the Mississippi.

 

“The city and the team really embraced us,” says Patricof. “We used the uniforms and the stadium of the real team.”

[Sugar Press Kit]

That team is the Quad Cities River Bandits (Cardinals). If you look at the movie’s poster, you see the distinctive bridge over the Mississippi that looms near the stadium. The River Bandits have a big movie premiere party going on this weekend, with the movie’s star throwing out the first pitch and signing autographs. The River Bandits’ stadium also has a marvelous name: Modern Woodmen Park. Not a bad name if your team brings big bats to the game every night. Or if you’re filming a baseball-themed porno. Which, come to think of it, you could totally also name “Sugar”.

Anyway, I’ll be looking forward to catching “Sugar” when it comes to my town. And I’ll have a special eye out for the baseball haven of Davenport, Iowa (they grow corn in the outfield!) during the minor-league scenes.

[Quad Cities River Bandits] [Sugar Film Site]

Playing for Peanuts, Episode 1.3

Here’s the third installment of Playing for Peanuts.

Episode 1.3 – [blip.tv ?posts_id=1267867&dest=-1]