Fictional baseball movies aren’t always spectacular, and Rookie of the Year isn’t an exception. Granted, it is a good family comedy that anybody can watch and enjoy, but there isn’t much substance when you try to read between the lines, or look between the pixels.
I personally like Rookie of the Year, but I know that it is not as well received by a majority of people who watch it. If you were a kid when it came out and saw it either in theaters or on VHS, you probably have a soft spot in your heart. There is no doubting that everybody who has seen American Pie will at least recognize Thomas Ian Nicholas. His ability to throw the heater as a pre-teen is much cooler than his inability to connect with his girlfriend as a high school senior.
If you haven’t seen the movie, here is a quick rundown on what happens. Henry Rowengartner is a 12-year-old who stinks at playing baseball but loves going to watch the Chicago Cubs with his two friends. While trying to impress a girl at school by catching a baseball, Henry trips and lands on his arm which then enables him to throw upwards of 100 miles per hour. He gets signed by the Cubs themselves and becomes a Major League Baseball player before his 13th birthday.
Henry gets noticed initially by Chicago when he throws a home run ball hit by the visitors back onto the field. If you have ever watched a game at Wrigley Field either in person or on television, this is very typical and pretty much an insult to other Cubs’ fans if you don’t throw back an opponent’s home run ball. Rookie of the Year is no different. Henry has his new rocket arm cocked and ready to toss it back to the field, but he manages to throw a frozen rope to the catcher from the right field bleachers. Everybody takes notice right away.
Gary Busey does a great job portraying an aging veteran who is nearing the end of his career and facing pressure from his manager. If any pitcher in real life were to have a 12-year-old signed as their new bullpen partner and road trip responsibility, I doubt anybody would handle it as well as Busey did in the movie. His character, Chet Steadman, takes Henry under his wing to show him around and keep the kid out of trouble.
One of the things I would have liked to have seen in Rookie of the Year was talking cameos by actual Major Leaguers. There are a few scenes where Henry is shown striking out players like Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla, but none of them actually interact with Henry himself.
Since there weren’t any verbal cameos, this did leave the door open for one of the best baseball villains you are likely to see in a movie: Heddo. He has the reputation of Barry Bonds and the attitude of Carlos Gomez when having a conversation with Brian McCann. He is hilarious and makes the most out of his few scenes in the movie.
There is no immediate pressure on anybody to go and see Rookie of the Year, but it is definitely worth the hour and a half if you have some free time. The next time you go to the doctor, you’ll know if he has seen the movie once you tell him funky butt loving.