"It's the only game on Earth where the object is to get home," says David Mickey Evans in reference to baseball and its theme in his new film, The Final Season. An ardent fan of the game, Evans made his directorial debut with 1993’s The Sandlot, the pleasurable kid’s comedy about a new boy in town who finds his place after joining the neighborhood baseball team. "The sport of baseball is a metaphor for family, and for life, where you can be a part of a team part of a tight unit but within that tight family unit, you can stand out as an individual and shine." Sean Astin, who plays the coach of the team during its final year, supports director Evans’ philosophy, "Baseball, and especially high school baseball, is something that brings parents and kids together.”
Astin, who starred as Rudy, another standout, fact-based sports story, took on this project due to its positive elements. “I can sum up in two words what sets it apart: heart and authenticity. Everybody involved with the movie did it because they believed in it. The movie was made by Iowans, the money was raised by Iowans, it was filmed in Iowa. That Midwestern feel just seeps out of every frame of the film. If you put the film in a time capsule, in two hundred years you could open it up and say this is the quintessential way in which Midwesterners saw themselves at the beginning of the 21st century.
“It treats high school baseball in a realistic way,” the actor continues. “Baseball’s still the national pastime. It’s our sport, as a country. But I can’t think of a baseball movie that takes you right into sophomore, junior, senior guts of high school baseball as well as it’s depicted here.”
The consensus is that these high school games played in the Midwest override TV, movies or other social activities that take precedence in more cosmopolitan areas. They are the social events in the heartland because they are about family and connecting with American ideals.
Astin, son of actress Patty Duke (The Miracle Worker) and the late John Astin (The Addams Family), played Sam Gamgee in the billion-dollar Lord of the Rings franchise, and has geared his career toward projects meant to teach, as well as entertain. In the small-budgeted but effective 2005 film, Smile, about a medical organization that helps children around the world born with facial deformities, Astin played a small role in order to be supportive of a project intending to make people aware of Operation Smile.
“I think there’s a place for movies aimed at a younger audience that have an edge to them,” says Astin. “I think The Final Season has that edge. I wish there was a way to say ‘family film’ where it didn’t sound soft. I just don’t like the idea that audiences or studios dismiss a subject matter because it only seems good for a particular demographic. This is a family film with guts.”
"The boys on that final Norway team didn't have anything waiting for them at the end of the game because their school was going to be shutting down, and yet they put their whole heart into each play right down to the final catch," adds David Mickey Evans, who also wrote the screenplay for the critically acclaimed Radio Flyer. "They played with courage, commitment and character because it was simply the right thing to do."
“The inevitable march of progress is likely to leave behind some of the great aspects of our culture,” says Astin. “So to make a movie that kind of sign-posts that and says, ‘you know what, there are things that are so special, you have to stop and appreciate them, because they might not be here long unless you fight to keep them.’ That’s what this movie is trying to accomplish.”
Read Phil's review of The Final Season HERE.