The Rookie is a Disney movie which was released in the spring of 2002. It is the true story of former Tampa Bay Devil Rays baseball player Jim Morris, who is best known for having entered his rookie season at age 35. It is based on Morris's book, The Oldest Rookie, which he wrote during his stint with the L.A. Dodgers when he was confined to the bench, due to tendinitis.

In the movie, which features the extremely talented Dennis Quaid as Jim Morris, he is drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1983, despite having never played on real baseball team as a youth. His fastball reaches speeds of around 85 mph, but his career is unfortunately cut short by injuries, and Morris quits before making the majors. His childhood dream is more unattainable than ever, or so he thinks.

Ten years later, Morris is teaching science at a high school in Reagan County, TX. His only involvement with baseball is his job as coach of the Reagan County High Owls, perennenial underachievers who, after seeing Morris's phenomenal pitching, make a pact with Morris that if they win their district he will attend a major league tryout. The Owls somehow manage to win their district, and Morris reluctantly heads off to the tryout, taking his three kids along with him. At the tryout his fastball inexplicably clocks in at 98 mph. At 34 years of age, Morris is signed by the team, and is eventually called up to the major leagues.

For many, the story seemed almost too good to be true: "I didn't have to change anything in this movie," said Mark Ciardi, the former Brewers pitcher who produced the movie. "It wrote itself." And wrote itself quite well. Despite lengthy moments of unadulterated sappiness (lengthy scenes depicting either Morris, his wife, or one of his parents staring at the wall/sky/ceiling, etc., while tearjerker music plays in the background), The Rookie is a great movie, with a great atmosphere, and a more than obvious reverence for the game of baseball. Quaid's performance is perfect, the supporting cast is perfect, and the end result is a movie so tame you wouldn't be too embarassed to watch it with your grandmother, yet at the same time it manages to be quite entertaining.

As for the accuracy of the screenplay, many people would be surprised to find out that screenwriter Mike Rich (who wrote Finding Forrester) actualy took very few liberties with Morris's story. In the movie, when Morris is called up to the Devil Rays, he is called up with an African-American player called Brooks. In real life, it was a white infielder named Steve Cox. In his first game, Morris is depicted in the film as needing only three pitches to strike out Texas Rangers shortstop Royce Clayton, when in fact Morris actually took four. Also, after his first game, Morris gave the game ball to his son, not his father.

Selected Cast Members:
Dennis Quaid .... Jimmy Morris
Rachel Griffiths .... Lorri Morris
Jay Hernandez .... Joaquin 'Wack' Campos
Beth Grant .... Jimmy's Mother
Angus T. Jones .... Hunter Morris
Brian Cox .... Jim Morris Sr.
Rick Gonzalez .... Rudy Bonilla
Chad Lindberg .... Joe David West
Angelo Spizzirri .... Joel De La Garza

Sports Illustrated, 05/06/02 p. 28