Sunday, July 12, 2020

The Rookie commentary, part 12: ‘I’m wasting my time down here’

Back on the bus, Jimmy pulls out a crayon drawing, a Morris Children original, and stares at it, no doubt missing home and his family. When the bus arrives at the team’s next destination, Jimmy, still looking rugged and tired, stretches out his pitching arm as he gets up from his bus seat before slowly grabbing his bag from underneath the bus.

His teammate, Brooks, calls Jimmy “Old Man River” and says he’s moving kind of slow. Brooks assures the old man that he has a recipe for him, which means they’re headed to a local dive bar for food and beverages. Of course.

Brooks and Jimmy are joined by another teammate who shortens the nickname to “River” and asks what it was like for Jimmy to watch Babe Ruth play baseball. Hardy-har-har, the jokes about Jimmy being old are getting old. Jimmy’s not slow on the uptick though, firing a zinger right back at the other pitcher. Then the guy starts to say something about Jimmy, essentially alluding to the fact that his whole team is talking crap about him behind his back.

Catching on, Jimmy can see that the guys think he’s there as some kind of PR stunt holding a roster spot hostage. He wants Brooks, a player he clearly trusts to at least some extent, to level with him. Brooks both dodges the question and offers a compliment.

“You’re too fast for me. That’s all I know,” Brooks says about Jimmy’s pitching.

Time in the minors is getting to Jimmy
At another ball game, Brooks hits one into the gap (this establishes that Brooks is a solid hitter and doing well in the minors) and checks in at second base as Jimmy starts to warm up in the ‘pen. Jimmy, wearing No. 15, faces the stands from his bullpen mound. He looks up to see a father helping his young son adjust the ball glove in his hand, and they’re seen talking about the game on the field. Jimmy can look at this from two directions – missing his son, Hunter, and perhaps missing out on the time he would have liked to share with his own father.

Postgame, Jimmy is in the manager’s office saying he knows the call-up to the majors is going to be Brooks. The manager is more optimistic, saying there’s been more than one call-up before. But Jimmy seems to have made up his mind. He lays it all out for skip, mentioning the pile of unpaid bills at home when he’s only making $600 a month pitching, plus the family he hasn’t seen in three months. This gives us some idea of the timeframe, by the way. After the high school baseball season in the spring, Jimmy has pretty much been pitching in the minors all summer, so this is sometime in September when major-league rosters expand for players to call-up from the minors.

To finish off his speech to the skipper, Jimmy offers up that line from his dad, the one that made him seething mad: “It’s OK to think about what you want to do until it was time to start doing what you were meant to do.”

The skipper lets Jimmy know that he’s been his best relief pitcher the past month. If that’s some kind of consolation.

He’s ready to pack it in
Jimmy then calls Lorri, resigned to the fact that he’s given it his second shot. He tells her he’s coming home, and, of course, she’s worried he got hurt again. His pride might be hurt, I suppose, but he tells his wife that it’s just time. He’ll be ready to start that new job in three weeks.

“I’m wasting my time down here,” Jimmy tells Lorri.

In a role reversal from when they discussed Jimmy giving pitching another try, Lorri is the one convincing Jimmy that he should stick it out. Or, at the very least he has to make sure he’s heading home for the right reasons. He’ll be the one that has to live with this decision. Then she poses this question, that I think a lot of us in any profession could ask ourselves when we find ourselves at a crossroads: “Do you still love it?”

Jimmy stays silent as Lorri tells him to think about it.

Thinking it over… with a brew and ball game
What better place to think than one of those local bars? Jimmy is nursing a bottle of Miller suds and eating peanuts while perched on a barstool. He looks up to the TV behind the bar and sees the ABC piece that was done on him (the one that annoyed his teammates), introduced by the real-life Charles Gibson.

Jimmy watches the story, hears the voiceover of his story, about him being too old for the minors but still throwing the ball hard. He says the game has been the true love of his life (other than his wife) since he was a little boy.

Back home in Texas, we see the mouthy Wack watching the story with his family. A random shot to remind us we’re not completely done with the high-school players.

Watching this story is the first part for Jimmy that gets him thinking about his passion for the game. Apparently, this bar was within walking distance of a youth baseball field, because Jimmy steps outside and sees the stadium lights and hears the sounds of a game happening.

He walks over to the outfield side of the field, resting his arms on top of the chain-link fence. A new half inning is about to commence, and the centerfielder, probably 10 or 11 years old, notices Jimmy and gives him a brief wave. Jimmy raises his pointer finger in acknowledgment and cracks a smile.

Yes, I think we’ve answered the question about Jimmy still loving baseball. 

The Rookie commentary, part 3: ‘Yeah dad, bring the heat!’
The Rookie commentary, part 4: ‘You don’t have dreams, you don’t have anything’
The Rookie commentary, part 5: 'You got your shot at baseball. You got hurt.' 
The Rookie commentary, part 6: 'State! State! State!'
The Rookie commentary, part 7: 'It's your turn, coach'
The Rookie commentary, part 8: 'You just threw 98 mph'
The Rookie commentary, part 9: ‘Do you know how many guys can throw the ball 98 mph?’
The Rookie commentary, part 10: 'What are we telling him if you don't try now?'
The Rookie commentary, part 11: 'I'm the old guy'

Saturday, July 11, 2020

The Rookie commentary, part 11: ‘I’m the old guy’

For some reason, the next scene opens up with kids in a bounce house. It’s odd until the camera pans out and shows that it’s part of the festivities outside a stadium. The graphics on the screen announce it’s Orlando in the AA Southern League. Baseball fans are filling up on hot dogs and games before the main event – a baseball games – starts.

Jimmy walks into the locker room, zigging and zagging his way around players much younger than him. One player sitting on a bench removes his headphones (the ones from the 90s, not earbuds or AirPods) and asks if Jimmy is the old guy. “I’m the old guy,” says Jimmy, embracing the role.

Playing for the Orlando Rays, a minor-league affiliate of the Devil Rays, Jimmy wears a No. 9 jersey as he warms up in the bullpen, located down the first baseline in front of the stands in the outfield. Fans, also noticing his age, start heckling him. One probably-not-sober-fellow asks if he uses a walker to get to the mound. Another can be heard asking if Jimmy came up with the Senators. Then there’s this gem: “Hey skipper, I didn’t know it was bring your dad to work night.”

Let’s go over something here. Double-A ball is still two steps away from the major leagues. So even though Jimmy was in his mid-30s at the time, which is still relatively young in life and not at all unheard of for players in the big leagues, it’s definitely rare for someone his age to be stuck in the minors. Obviously, the scouts couldn’t just send Jimmy immediately to the Bigs, even with that 98-mph fastball.

Rough first outing
Back to the game, Jimmy gets the call to go in. Although he’s first introduced as Johnny Morris. I’d love to know if that mistake actually happened somewhere along the way in his minor-league career. When he gets to the mound, after first tripping over monster trucks near first base as part of a fan in-stadium gimmick, the manager hands him the ball and tells him to work fast because they have a long bus trip.

Fans are shown in the stands having a good time, dancing to the music as Jimmy warms up. When he starts pitching, he lets a wild one sail above the batter at home plate and hit the protective netting behind the plate. The fans immediately let Jimmy have it, booing and heckling him hard.

This screams movie-bit to me. I get that the intent in the movie is to put doubt into the audience's minds that Jimmy isn’t that good or he’ll be too nervous in the clutch or whatever. But these are fans at a minor-league ball game watching a brand-new pitcher. “Old” or not, they’re not going to let the guy have it like that.

We don’t know the outcome of the game, and it really doesn’t matter, but apparently, Jimmy had a rough go, telling Lorri on the phone later that he let a few of the pitches get away from him.

On to triple-A in the minor-league life
On the charter bus that night, because the minor-league life is not one of luxury, Jimmy sits alone staring out the window. The movie flashes back to teenage Jimmy staring out the window of the station wagon as the family is driving to its final destination in Texas. We also see him throwing the baseball against the fence, with the raindrops bouncing off the chain links as the ball makes contact.

That scene weaves back to the present with Jimmy blowing away hitters, showing the swings-and-misses consecutively. Somewhere in this sequence, Jimmy moves from double-A to triple-A ball, as the screen graphics note with the location: Durham, NC, AAA International League.

Still living that minor-league road life, Jimmy stands in a phone booth in the parking lot of a motel talking to Hunter and asking him the solution for 4x4. Hunter guesses 17, and dad calls him out for guessing and instructs him to “add it up.” Hunter is successful this time, while Jimmy receives an impatient knock on the phone-booth door as the “hurry up” signal.

Not wanting to talk about math anymore (I don’t blame ya, kid.), Hunter asks his dad if he’s made it to the big leagues yet. Jimmy, probably exhausted and frustrated with however long it’s been and he hasn’t gotten the call-up, completely ducks the question and asks Hunter to put his mom on the phone.

Jimmy wants a report on the home front, and Lorri tells him they’re a little behind money-wise. Baseball aside, being away from his family and the money issues are stressing him out. He says he’s tired, they say their “I love yous” and end the call.

He encounters a line of teammates when he exits the booth, prompting one of the outspoken fellas to explain to Jimmy that this is the only long-distance phone they have access to and he should put a time limit on his calls if someone is waiting. Jimmy doesn’t respond, so the player takes the opportunity to give him some jabs about how he’s all talked out from being on the phone with his girlfriend. That gets Jimmy’s attention; he replies that his son needed help with his homework.

Jimmy draws media attention
At batting practice on a sunny day, a TV reporter shows up and gets Jimmy called over to the sideline from the outfield. A young-stud hitter in the box, who seems pretty pleased with his cuts, is obviously annoyed that he’s not getting any love from reporters.

“You believe that? I go 4-for-5 last night, look where they got the camera.”

Then there are a couple of more comments from other teammates about how Jimmy should retire, because he’s certainly old enough etc. What are we seeing here? Yes, that’s resentment from some of the other players to put a conflict out there. It wouldn’t be unheard of, I suppose. These young players are likely just starting out, trying to get their careers off the ground, and then this “old guy” comes along and steals their thunder? Let’s put a pin in this one for later, too. 

The Rookie commentary, part 3: ‘Yeah dad, bring the heat!’
The Rookie commentary, part 4: ‘You don’t have dreams, you don’t have anything’
The Rookie commentary, part 5: 'You got your shot at baseball. You got hurt.' 
The Rookie commentary, part 6: 'State! State! State!'
The Rookie commentary, part 7: 'It's your turn, coach'
The Rookie commentary, part 8: 'You just threw 98 mph'
The Rookie commentary, part 9: ‘Do you know how many guys can throw the ball 98 mph?’
The Rookie commentary, part 10: 'What are we telling him if you don't try now?'

Friday, July 10, 2020

The Rookie commentary, part 10: ‘What are we telling him if you don’t try now?’

In the next scene, Jimmy is back at his father’s house, sitting in his truck and staring into the darkness as if trying to figure out if he wants to go in. Jimmy ends up wandering in the yard and declines an invitation to come in the house when his dad sees him.

Because Jimmy and his dad still apparently don’t talk about things, the old man opens up the conversation by saying Lorri called him and “guess the scouts saw what they wanted to see.” That’s the way of telling the audience that things went well and now Jimmy has a decision to make regarding if he should head out and away from his family so he can go give this baseball thing a try again.

He’s at a crossroads. He’s not sure what to do. And even with the tumultuous relationship, he still ended up at his dad’s place for advice. Dad first fouls one off with a “give it some time” approach, which is something Jimmy says he doesn’t have. Then dad goes for the belt.

“Your grandfather once told me ‘it’s OK to think about what you want to do until it was time to start doing what you were meant to do.’ That may not be what you wanted to hear.”

Goodnight.

The blow-up continues on the home front
Quick-cut to Jimmy unleashing his fury for his dad back at home talking to Lorri: “I swear, sometimes I think he lies in bed at night just figuring out the one thing that he can say that hurts the most.” After all the awkward scenes with Jimmy the teenager and the tension in their father-son relationship, this is really the first time we see it boiling over for Jimmy, the anger he’s built up.

Jimmy hoped that this time, his dad was going to come through with some good advice. Now it’s Lorri’s turn to respond with an icy “maybe he did.” Yes, it’s time to recall her earlier, unconvincing happiness about Jimmy’s 98-mph fastball from his tryout.

Lorri goes into the list of reasons why she has reservations about her husband taking off to go play ball again. He has a family to support, a great job waiting in Fort Worth (which feels like it’s just a movie-chip pawn sometimes), and she tells him that he’s losing sight of all of those important things. “You can’t eat dreams, Jimmy,” she says, in reference to him needing to bring in some dough.

The gloves really come off when Lorri says she had the front-row seat to Jimmy’s pitching career the last time, especially when he got hurt and shut himself off from the rest of the world and from her. That dagger? “Truth is, I was happy when you quit.” 

But she does make some good points, and she also doesn’t want to see him get hurt again. It’s not worth the risk to her.

I have no idea if real-life Jimmy and his wife had these debates about whether he should give this a shot or not. I would imagine there were certainly discussions. Though this dramatic fight does scream “movie bit.”

Then they make-up
The dust settles and Lorri tucks in a sleeping Hunter. His walls are decorated with baseball cards, cutouts of ballplayers, even a photo of his dad on the mound. She gazes at all of it as she pulls the blankets close to her son. Her own wheels are turning in her head. She’s obviously going to change her mind, because we don’t come this far into the movie for Jimmy to put the brakes on and finish up teaching science in Fort Worth.

The husband and wife apologize to each other on the porch, each knowing the earlier conversation got too heated. Naturally, they each flip their positions, Lorri telling him to play and Jimmy saying she was right on her counterpoints.

But it’s Lorri who delivers the speech that tugs at the heartstrings. She mentions Hunter, their 8-year-old boy who waited in the rain all day to see his daddy pitch.

“What are we telling him if you don’t try now?”

So, I guess Jimmy going for it is all to Hunter’s credit? It’s obvious that Jimmy’s passion for baseball was injected into his son’s veins, too.

Time to hit the road
Still, Jimmy is hesitant, noting he can’t leave his wife with the sole responsibilities that come with three young children, bills to pay and a house to keep. She’s prepared though, telling him she’s a Texas woman who doesn’t need a man to keep things running. Score a point for the independent women!

Whether it’s the next morning or soon after, Jimmy is up early, dressed with an overnight bag slung over his right shoulder as he kisses his sleeping daughters goodbye in their shared bedroom. He stops in Hunter’s room as well, adding a “see you soon, little man” to his kiss on the head.

Lorri is waiting in the hall, and they embrace in a hug, gripping each other tightly, in a way meant for hugs of a person leaving for a while. 

The Rookie commentary, part 3: ‘Yeah dad, bring the heat!’
The Rookie commentary, part 4: ‘You don’t have dreams, you don’t have anything’
The Rookie commentary, part 5: 'You got your shot at baseball. You got hurt.' 
The Rookie commentary, part 6: 'State! State! State!'
The Rookie commentary, part 7: 'It's your turn, coach'
The Rookie commentary, part 8: 'You just threw 98 mph'
The Rookie commentary, part 9: ‘Do you know how many guys can throw the ball 98 mph?’