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Film / The Rookie (2002)

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"It's never too late to believe in your dreams."

The Rookie is a 2002 film directed by John Lee Hancock, written by Mike Rich and featuring Dennis Quaid as real-life former pitcher Jim Morris who began his pitching career in 1999 at the late age of 35 for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Morris, a high-school chemistry teacher and baseball coach when the movie opens, is a former Major League baseball prospect whose injuries sidelined him. In an effort to inspire his team to victory, Morris makes a bet stating he will try again to make it into the Majors if his team wins Regionals. So when they do just that, Morris has no choice but to keep his end of the bargain and pursue his dream. Along the way, Morris must come to terms with his past life and his non-supportive father Jim Sr. (Brian Cox), who never appreciated his ambitions.

The film also stars Rachel Griffiths as Lorri Morris, Jay Hernandez as Joaquin "Wack" Campos and Angus T. Jones as Hunter Morris. It was released on March 29, 2002.

Not to be confused with the 1990 film by Clint Eastwood of the same name.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Jim is played by Dennis Quaid in the film; he looks a bit different in real life.
  • Age Cut: In the first half of the film, the 10-year-old Jim Morris is practicing his pitching position at a mound near the Santa Rita #1 oil rig. It eventually cuts to him doing the same thing 25 years later.
  • Better Than New: What surprises Morris, and the scouts at his tryout, is that despite his shoulder injuries that derailed his career as a young man, he was throwing with more velocity than he ever had before, going from the high-80s when he was a professional to touching 98 mph in the tryouts.
  • Big Game: More than one actually, as this includes the High-School Regional Final and Morris' First Major League game.
  • Career-Ending Injury: After being initially drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers while in the minor leagues, Jim ends up tearing his shoulder. Though not depicted in the movie, he eventually re-injured the shoulder again after making it to the major leagues.
  • Crazy Enough to Work: After deer eat up the grass on the baseball diamond, yet again, the folks from the barbershop ring the diamond with hair clippings, saying that the scent will keep the animals away. And it does!
  • Dare to Be Badass: During the sequence where the Owls are struggling to hit Morris's fastball, one of the players finally manages to foul it off and happily announces that he got a piece of it. Morris acknowledges him with a smile and lays this trope on him with five words:
    "Now, get all of it."
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength: Jim doesn't realize how much power he has in his pitches until Wack says he has to ice his hand after each practice.
  • Down to the Last Play: Played straight when the Owls win the district championship, since it comes down to their pitcher getting a strikeout in the bottom of the last inning. Averted at the end of the movie with Morris's major league debut, since he was only brought into the game because the Devil Rays were losing badly. This counts as an aversion rather than a subversion because the point of the second half of the movie wasn't to show Jim Morris being successful as a major league baseball pitcher, but simply achieving his lifelong dream of becoming one.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Jim's father, Jim Sr., attempts to dissuade him from playing baseball ever since he was young. He eventually gets over it after watching him play with the Devil Rays towards the end of the film.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Since this is a biopic, anyone who knows about baseball will already know that Jim Morris does become a player for the Major League Baseball for two seasons.
  • Gave Up Too Soon: Encouraged by his team's praise of his velocity, Jim stops at a roadside radar sign and out of curiosity, fires a couple of pitches at it, but is disappointed at the reading of 76 mph (on par with a talented young teenager, but nowhere resembling big league fastball velocity). Dejected, he walks past the sign to retrieve the baseballs, and misses a couple of lightbulbs on the sign flickering back on, with a correct reading of an eye-popping, major-league-worthy 96mph.
  • Genre Shift: The first half of the movie chronicles Jim Morris leading his high-school team to the regional championship, in a familiar Disney-sports-movie fashion. The second half follows Morris' journey from tryouts to the minors to the big leagues, in a adhere-to-reality direction akin to a Docudrama.
    Rudy: (hands Jim a baseball after the team wins Regionals) Now it's your turn, Coach.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: Baseball is all but dismissed at Big Lake, with Jim even needing to use his own time and money to try and keep grass on the small diamond the team has to work with.
  • Opposing Sports Team: The team the Owls play against in the Regional Final, complete with jerkass power hitter.
  • Real-Person Cameo: Immediately after the scene where a smiling Morris tells Brooks "You know what we get to do today, Brooks? We get to play baseball.", there's a scene where Morris is pitching his third strikeout in a game for a Triple-A ball team. The real Jim Morris is the red-shirted home plate umpire.
    • Major league shortstop Royce Clayton plays himself striking out against Morris in his major league debut, which was Truth in Television.
  • Redemption Quest: Morris' quest is to fulfill his life's dream and, perhaps subconsciously, win his father's support.
  • So Proud of You: Jim Sr. admits how proud he is of his son after witnessing his son play against the Texas Rangers as an act of reconciliation.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Suprisingly averted, considering this is a Disney production (for instance, Morris really did try out with his kids in tow). Jim Morris has said that the only part which absolutely did not happen was the bit with the radar sign.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Much of Morris' lack of self-motivation comes from his father who never took an interest. He eventually succeeds in gaining Jim Sr.'s approval at the end of the film.