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"Summer Catch" review by Russ Charpentier

08/03/2001 11:45 AM

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 Movie shows Cape League life, pressure "Summer Catch" isn't a hit, but it does accurately reflect the league's mood.

Staff writer
  "Summer Catch" is definitely a lightweight summertime movie.

The catch, though, is that its portrayal of the mind-set of Cape League ballplayers seemed pretty darn accurate.

Getting beyond the "booze and broads," which we'll touch on in a moment, "Summer Catch" zeroed in on the insecurities that haunt Cape League players.

"Remember, you're one step away from being paid to play baseball," Brian Dennehy, who plays real-life Chatham manager John Schiffner, told his players before opening day.

In other words, don't screw up.

We are talking about players whose hopes and dreams center around a chance at pro baseball. Every move they make on a Cape diamond is dissected by a major-league scout, and the ballplayers in the movie convey that well.

One of the best examples of that is shown when star Freddie Prinze Jr., who plays a local Chatham kid trying to make it big, winds up to pitch. At least a dozen radar guns are aimed at him as he gets ready to throw.

When Prinze's character, Ryan Dunne, mentioned to a star player early in the movie a scout was watching, the response was of someone who has been here. "Relax, by July Fourth they'll be a dozen here.''

We've talked to countless players over the years who pondered their future, who wondered why they weren't drafted higher, who curse the cruel fates of the sport. Some players become consumed by those insecurities, like one of the main characters who wanted to go home after early failures. Those who succeed learn to keep them hidden deep inside.

From the arrogant first-round draft pick to the small-school player trying to make a name, the players' essences were captured well in "Summer Catch." Every organization has had to send players home for misadventures, as told in the movie - though it's hard to recall two players being sent home for burning down a press box.

One of the major adjustments college players must make is the switch to wooden bats. So when a player who struggled at the plate stormed back to the dugout after striking out and said, "Wood bats suck," it lent an air of credibility to the movie.

One nice touch was the sign, "Charlie Thoms Press Box" screwed onto the press box. Charlie Thoms is the friendly, hard-working general manger of the Chatham A's, the team featured in the movie.

A point that failed the accuracy test was the eligibility of Dunne, the southpaw hurler played by Prinze. He dropped out of Boston College and was thrown off the Framingham State team, so he sure as heck wouldn't have played in the Cape League.

Another was Dennehy stubbing out a cigarette in the dugout before heading the pitching mound. NCAA rules prohibit tobacco use.

A little dramatic license was used in those instances, as well as a few others.

The movie was filmed in North Carolina, but the picturesque diamond definitely could have been a Cape League field. Cut-ins of scenes from around Chatham, and quick baseball action scene of Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School's Red Wilson Field - home of the Y-D Red Sox - added to the believability of a Cape Cod movie. The use of real Cape League uniforms helped, as did having characters reading the Cape Cod Times as they talked around a breakfast table.

Having Prinze chosen to pass the hat in the stands - as well the public address announcer's acknowledgment of the local Rotary Club that helped build the new press box - gave an authentic feel.

The ballplayers hung around a bar called The Oasis, an obvious takeoff of the Chatham Squire. The only thing is, in the Cape League a majority of the players are under 21. We didn't see anyone being carded in the movie. But the pursuit of Cape nightlife has certainly affected the careers of some of the players who have suited up here. No doubt there. Dennehy, playing Schiffner, touched on that.

Girls and baseball players have gone hand-in-hand since the game was invented. We've heard the rumors of players and house mothers dallying, and there's no shortage of ballplayers and college girls on the prowl on Cape Cod in the summer. And the way the players talked about girls, if you've ever been in a locker room or hung around a ballclub, there's nothing in the movie you haven't heard before.





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