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Game 21: Twins at Rays

Minnesota tries to pivot to Tropicana from Tropican’t.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 Photo by Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images


TV: Bally Sports North / ~ / Radio: TIBN

I didn’t realize the Rays were such a big rival, but then I saw that they ran an article promoting a podcast episode where they determine whether or not The Rookie is a “snooze-fest.”

Now, it’s true that Dennis Quaid’s 2002 entry into the baseball movie canon has only ever been consumed on ION television, in between doses of the low-level REM of a 3:30 nap, but that doesn’t make it a snooze-fest, it makes it an integral puzzle piece of cinematic dadcore.

If you haven’t seen it, The Rookie is based on real-life major-league pitcher Jim Morris, whose minor-league career was stunted by constant injuries, rendering him unable to progress beyond Single-A ball. A decade later, Morris — now a high school physical science teacher/baseball coach — made a promise to his students that, should they win the District Championship, he would attend the open tryouts for the recently-expanded Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

It’s home to one of my favorite scenes in a baseball movie, where Morris — struggling with the vulnerability of feeling hope again, years after moving on from his dream — pulls over on an evening drive to throw a baseball past a roadside radar gun.

At the age of 35, Morris earned not just a minor-league contract, but a September call-up in 1999 after a successful stint with the Triple-A Durham Bulls. He struck out Royce Clayton of Texas, the first hitter he faced in the majors. He put up a 4.80 ERA (107 ERA+, given the era) and recorded 13 strikeouts in 15 big-league innings between 1999-2000.

(As is the case in most thought-out dramatic storytelling, the given circumstances — in this case, Morris’ baseball journey — are largely a vehicle through which to get to the relational heart of the piece, which in The Rookie has to do with Morris’ family, and in particular a strained paternal dynamic.)

It reminds us of the important things in life, like how Chicago could be in last place by the end of the day:


Or, more topically, how we have our own rookie joining the team...albeit a more appropriately-aged one.

Or, perhaps it ties in best with yesterday’s conclusion to the winning streak, a brief run of success that ends at seven games. We all know you can’t win ‘em all, but when you’re in a stretch like that, it sure feels you can.

Maybe the lesson here is exactly that, even if your own career hasn’t been derailed by arm surgeries; no matter how childish it may seem, and no matter how much cynicism and age seem to go hand in hand, there’s never anything wrong with unbridled hope.