A bright blue day under a massive Montana sky sits on creaking bleachers, beer in hand, buying raffle tickets from the pin hat lady. There’s one in every ballpark, you know. This version, Barbara, sticks her pins in a red floppy hat and tries to give everyone in the ballpark luck with her raffle ritual. A man plays the national anthem on a saw and a guy tries to win ten thousand dollars by throwing a baseball from the mound through a hole in a board at homeplate. You can get your ticket for five bucks and sit anywhere you’d like, maybe even next to the guy who played ball on the original team so many decades ago. It’s life as a fan in a minor league ballpark.
Billings, Montana. Population 89,847. The Billings Mustangs are “the professional sports team” and have been the Reds rookie league team since 1974. (There’s a minor league hockey team, too.) Until last year, they played in Cobb Field, a ballpark that stood from 1948 until its death in 2007. Prior to Reds affiliation, the Mustangs were a Royals affiliate – George Brett played rookie ball here. Jim Kaat, too, for an affiliate of the Washington Senators. Current Reds Joey Votto and Jay Bruce played here as well.
Cobb Field: A Day at the Ballpark is a must see film for any baseball fan. Told from the perspective of the field itself, the film goes through one day in the life of an old ballpark, from grooming the field for the day’s play to scrubbing out grass stains in the uniforms and sweeping away ballpark trash in the wee hours of the morning. It’s a sort of nine inning Ulysses, a tale told through brilliant photography and interviews with a future star, a Hall of Famer, those who merely sipped from the cup of The Show, and those who spend every waking moment dreaming about it.
From the film:
Starring: the home of the Billings Mustangs
Screenplay By: Craig Lindvahl, Susanna Rich
Produced By: Craig Lindvahl
Awards: 3 Mid-America Emmys (best trailer, music, cinematography), selected for 2008 Baseball Hall of Fame Film Festival
Plot Outline: Cobb Field; a day at the ballpark explores the world of minor league baseball through the eyes of Cobb Field, a sixty year-old ballpark in Billings, Montana, and home of the Billings Mustangs from 1948-2007.
Shot during the last weeks of Cobb Field’s existence, the film imagines what Cobb Field might share about history, about baseball, and about life. From retired players like Jim Kaat and Gary Redus, current players like Todd Frazier and Daniel Zeffiro, from coaches and staff members, and from umpires and fans comes a heartwarming story of baseball in the rookie leagues.
Ballparks are like people with all of our personalities and mortalities and triumphs and tragedies. When they are born, they are beautiful, miracles of construction, created by the labor of man and testament to the wonders and mysteries of life. They laugh with us, they cry with us, they share in our joys and our despairs. They shudder as the cold winter leaves them empty and they thrive with the rebirth of spring and the glory of the summer sun. With the passage of years, they accumulate memories they share with us each and every visit we pay them. They age. Their parts, once shiny and beautiful, begin to wither and fade, the splendor of youth lost with the wrinkles of time. Their skins become marred by their years, their organs weaken, they cough and wheeze and groan as their steel bones ache with a change in the weather. They begin to shake and creak and crumble and then they are gone. We go to their funerals and some of us have tears in our eyes as we watch them implode to the ground. Rest in peace, old friends.
Cobb Field: A Day at the Ballpark is an old man expressing the joys of life when he knows it is his time to go. He admires the youth that play on his green; in sixty years he has never tired of the dreams that dance on his field. There, on that dusty diamond in big town Montana, dreams were given legs that ran and bodies that played and mouths that smiled. The smile of one who holds a dream is truly beautiful – there is such an innocence to it all, a purity that makes you feel like maybe Eden was a minor league baseball field. No flashbulbs blind players from seeing a love of the game, no leather couches and plasma televisions in the locker rooms, no Congressional testimonies, no taking up two lockers in clubhouse, it’s just baseball in its virgin form.
There are a lot of things to like about this film. The photography is beautiful. The interviews are fun. The shots of the Mustang burgers make you hungry. My favorite part is the footage of future Reds star Todd Frazier making his professional debut. It’s a gem. Us Reds fans will watch this film years from now and adore seeing Todd help hitting coach Aaron Holbert try to pull buckets apart or that sweet, sweet swing of his that was beautiful even in the beginning, even when all but the fanatical diehards among us did not know his name. And I think he was cheating on his windsprints!
All of the photos here are screenshots of the actual film. I loved it and recommend that everyone visit the website and order a copy. Buy it here. Do it now!
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