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Time In The Minors

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Some weeks ago, I was offered a copy of Time In The Minors, an independently-produced documentary by Tony Okun. Now, like most people, I'm generally inclined to accept any free stuff that someone might offer, but ordinarily I don't have much place for movies - I infrequently watch them, as I often feel the time can be better spent. But this one, I decided, was worth a shot, because it deals with something that I don't think gets nearly enough attention - just what life can be like as a player in the minor leagues.

(Understand that I'm under no obligation to write a review; I'm doing this by choice. I, in turn, understand that few of you will actually go on to watch this film, so I'll keep the review short.)

Time In The Minors follows two players. One - Tony Schrager - played college ball at Yale and Stanford, and was a sixth round pick by the Cubs in 1998. The other - John Drennen - was a first round pick out of high school by the Indians in 2005. One of its core objectives, I think, is to show how life can be different for a bonus baby, compared to someone picked later, and indeed, differences are revealed. The higher the pick, the more opportunities he's going to get, because the team has invested so much.

However, the bigger message I was left with coming out of it is that, no matter who you are, the minors are a grind. None of us need to be reminded that every player in an organization, from the Majors all the way down to the instructional leagues, is a person. These are all people, each of whom has his own life. But knowing that and understanding it are two very different things, and this is the sort of film that can help you get it. This is the sort of film that can elevate you above the level of common sports fan.

One of the things I liked about the movie is that it delivered a strong message without having to slap me in the face with it. It's easy to make anybody's life into a sympathetic one. Everybody has his own personal struggles or demons. But if anything, Time In The Minors said too little about each player's personal life. It focused on the baseball, and it turns out baseball's hard enough as it is.

If you want, you can 'spoil the ending', so to speak, by looking up how each player did. Their numbers aren't hard to track down. But this movie is less about the end than it is about the middle, and I think a lot of fans could benefit from a viewing. If only to delight in Schrager's unabashed whiteness, or Drennen's vague similarity to one Eric Byrnes. You can also look for appearances by Roger Clemens and certified playoff superhero Cody Ross if you think a whole bunch of minor league talent would just get you down. There are big leaguers, too!