Opening Day Watchlist: Family-Friendly Baseball Classics

Couldn’t help it…
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I don’t want to get into a heated debate over the best time of the year in terms of sports, so I will simply say that this fortnight ahead is one of the very best. The Final Four awaits, the Masters just beyond, the NHL and NBA rush towards the playoffs, and most important of all…OPENING DAY. Green grass, clean slates, and Padres fans acting like there’s actually hope this year. Baseball has fallen behind football in our country, but we here at GWW will never tire of the promise of a new season, new stars, and a new Red Sox run to the postseason (this is only the beginning of our Boston bias seeping into our work.). Though it may be at times tedious alongside the NFL and NBA, baseball at the very least has provided us with some fantastic, timeless films.

Rookie of the Year (1993)

As we will see with all three of these movies, RoY captures a dream turned to reality: here, a young boy playing for the Cubs, accidentally blessed with the arm of an MLB closer. The fact that that boy was Thomas Ian Nicholas, of American Pie fame, has simply made the film even more entertaining over time. Firmly planted in the realm of kids movies, this one gets me every single time. Nicholas shines, tiny in his oversized uniforms but wonderful with his high-pitched, wide-eyed eagerness. Did I mention that Gary Busey costars? Gary Busey costars. He plays a struggling veteran, and he and Henry don’t always see eye to eye. This movie gave us many important moments, though there is an unfortunate lack of clips to share. At least we have “funky butt lovin,” which was definitely inappropriate come to think of it. The movie is cheesy and predictable and awesome, and if you’re lazy the trailer pretty much gives you the whole story.

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Little Big League (1994)

Perhaps the least appreciated of these three, LBL came out almost exactly one year after RoY, begging the question: what did we do to earn two perfect kids baseball movies in such a short period of time? The Twins aren’t the Cubs, Luke Edwards wasn’t Thomas Ian Nicholas, and Timothy Busfield was sadly not Gary Busey, but this one still works well. Edwards plays Billy Heywood, suddenly the owner of the Twins following his grandfather’s death, and the manager of the team soon after. The entire movie is available on Youtube, and there are so many wonderful things about it, from the team turning it around to “Run Around Sue” to players like Ken Griffey Jr. and Randy Johnson playing themselves in fairly prominent roles. I also must give credit for very realistic in-game action; director Andrew Scheinman clearly knew his stuff. The movie tracks an entire season for the Twins, and though time flies by you grow attached to the team in time for the thrilling ending (no spoiler, go watch it!).

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The Sandlot (1993)

Oh, right. The pinnacle of blissful cinematic perfection, not just in baseball but perhaps in terms of all kids’ or summer movies, also came out around this time, just a couple months before Henry Rowengartner saved the Cubs. I don’t know if mere words can capture the feelings that overcome me each time I watch The Sandlot. The movie makes you long not just for athletic prowess but also for an eternity of childhood summers, split between the pool, the field, and wherever you can best see the fireworks. Most of us are closer to Scotty Smalls than Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez in terms of ability, but the beauty of the movie lies in its celebration of the game itself, loved by kids of all sizes, colors, and skill levels. All of your friends love it, and if they don’t, perhaps you need some new friends; kids from the ’90s, ’00s, and adults from further back will all sing its praise. Karen Allen, Denis Leary, and James Earl Jones lend helping hands, but the movie is and forever will be about the kids and the summer they share on the diamond and beyond, pulled together by a game with so much to love. The Sandlot gave us fantastic characters and arguably the greatest movie scene ever. It may leave you wanting Benny’s speed or Ham’s power or Squints’ luck with the ladies, but I can guarantee the movie will make you want to grab a glove and a friend and a vacant field, where anything can happen.

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About Author: Brian McMahon

Brian is an author and co-founder of GoodWillWatching. He likes to write and is deathly afraid of bugs. His Great American Novel, not yet titled or existent, will be shocking the world some time or another. He once stayed up for two days straight because of poor information regarding the arrival of Halley’s Comet, which was not due for approximately 57 years. You can follow him @bm1313 on Twitter, or in real life from a safe distance.

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