Fans of Flicks Flock to Cooperstown

Francis_90By Bill Francis

Just as the game’s regular season was coming to end, the Eighth Annual Baseball Film Festival was getting started with its slate of 11 movies this year.

Held at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum last Friday through Sunday, fans of the genre began the weekend with a screening of the box office hit “42” at the Grandstand Theater on Friday night.

Fans at the Baseball Film Festival enjoy a screening of the acclaimed Legendary Entertainment release “42” on Friday at the Museum’s Grandstand Theater. (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Fans at the Baseball Film Festival enjoy a screening of the acclaimed Legendary Entertainment release “42” on Friday at the Museum’s Grandstand Theater. (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame)

The action moved to the Bullpen Theater on Saturday and Sunday, where the fare included such wide-ranging subjects as blind athletes playing the game (“The Renegades: A Beep Ball Story”), the T206 Honus Wagner baseball card (“Holy Grail”), the unlikely success of a 1941 team from Venezuela (“La Hazana Del 41”) and the story of big league broadcasters (“The Booth”).

Returning for the third consecutive year was Nick Barnicle, who directed “Holy Grail” with his brother Colin.

“I love coming up here,” said Barnicle. “To have a film premiere here and have people come out and watch it is such a thrill. It’s something I look forward to every year, so we’re going to continue to try and make baseball movies so we can continue and try and come here.”

A relative of former big league pitcher George Barnicle, who played with the Boston Bees/Braves from 1939-41, Nick Barnicle described what has became an annual event in religious terms.

“I came up from New York today and it’s just one of those things where you leave the city and there are eight million people and you come up through the hills and there are less and less people,” he said. “And then there’s the Mecca of Baseball. This is like what the Vatican is. It’s just a holy, holy place for us.”

Accompanying “Hitting the Cycle” to Cooperstown was J. Richey Nash, as close to a five-tool filmmaker as you might find since he wrote the narrative feature, starred in it, produced it, and co-directed it.

“There’s not a lot I didn’t do,” Nash joked. “For a first feature and shooting it on an independent budget it was quite a task. But it turned out really well. It could have been a disaster given our circumstances but everything sort of fell into place with the film and it all came together really nicely. I think we were just kind of charmed in that way.”

The story of “Hitting the Cycle,” which was officially released in August, revolves around a former big leaguer’s return home to visit a dying father he hasn’t seen since he was 18 years old. As a former minor league player himself, Nash was able to use his own experiences in the game to give the final product a certain authenticity.

“If there’s a baseball movie out, inevitably I’m going to see it. And I’ve seen so many that have inaccuracies in terms of the way the game is played or how they portray this or that,” Nash said. “That was one of the big things that I really wanted to make authentic and accurate and really have a sense of, at least for the baseball parts, have a sense of what it’s really like.”

After starring at PrincetonUniversity, Nash was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 56th round of the 1991 MLB June Amateur Draft. And like Barnicle, he also has a family connection to big league baseball, as his father, Cotton Nash, not only played in the majors but also saw time in the NBA.

 Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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