Commentary
5:00 am
Wed March 27, 2013

Indie Film Guide: Pastime

No independent movie screenings are coming up in the area, so instead, Fletcher Powell takes a look at a little-known movie about one of his favorite times of year.

It’s springtime, sort of! And while college basketball is still going strong, the arrival of spring also means the beginning of baseball season.

Now, everyone knows the lineup of big-time baseball movies—Field of Dreams, Bull Durham, The Natural—but there’s one movie that has stayed well under the radar that always pulls on me when this time of year comes around.

It’s a 1990 movie appropriately called Pastime, and it features a few semi-familiar faces but hardly any household names, although baseball greats like Ernie Banks, Harmon Killebrew and Bob Feller make cameo appearances. It follows an aging minor league pitcher in the mid-1950s who takes under his wing a much younger player who holds all kinds of promise.

The movie touches on issues of age and race as it goes along, but its real focus is the quiet rhythms of life and minor-league baseball in a particular time and place. What happens in the movie is not quite as important as how it feels, and it’s clear that the movie loves its setting and its subject.

It’s hard for me to say if non-baseball fans would find Pastime as charming as I do, although I suspect they would. I think the bigger issue is the hardened, cynical moviegoer. There’s no doubt that Pastime is full of sports movie clichés, enough so that it might be hard for some people to look past that.

But it’s so sincere, and gets the little things exactly right—like the team owner who doubles as the stadium hot dog salesman on game day. And the tone of the movie is calm and contemplative enough that it almost feels elegiac, as if remembering a time that’s long past, or the taste of dreams that never came to be.

For most people, Pastime will probably never get to the major leagues of baseball movies. But if it teaches us anything, it’s that greatness exists in the minor leagues, too.