Monday, January 3, 2011

Canon Movie Review: A Player to be Named Later

Today's review comes from a suggestion from reader Ben W. Recently, Ben W. had seen the 2005 documentary A Player to be Named Later, and felt that this movie would be something worth viewing and reviewing. So I decided, sure, what the hey, and watched the documentary myself. Directed by Bart Stephens and produced by Maternity Films, A Player to be Named Later follows the 2001 season of the Milwaukee Brewers' Triple-A affiliate, the Indianapolis Indians. The story of A Player to be Named Later is centered around four players, outfielder Brad Tyler, outfielder Micah Franklin, infielder Marco Scutaro, and pitcher Kyle Peterson. Each player is at a different stage of their career, but they all share the same goal in common, to get the call to the big leagues. The film also features a variety of other characters, from Brewers' director of minor league personnel Greg Riddoch to the Indianapolis Indians' number one fan, Miss Jackie. A few notes about the film:

- The only one of the four players featured in the movie to have a successful career in the majors is Scutaro, who is currently on the Boston Red Sox. At the time, Scutaro was a 25 year-old middle infield prospect who was not yet on the forty man roster, and was still struggling to make the big leagues. Both Scutaro and his wife are interviewed in the film, and while Scutaro is focused on nothing other than making the big leagues, and remote control cars, his wife still seems to be coming to terms with the drastic changes that have taken place in her life, as both of them are originally from Venezuela and have only been in America for a few years. One of the more interesting things said in the movie is that Scutaro's wife wishes that her kids wouldn't grow up to be ballplayers, as life in the minor leagues can be hard on both the player and their family. I wonder if she thinks differently now that Scutaro has a multi million dollar contract and would seem to be set for life.

- One of, if not the most interesting aspects of this movie is now just the story of the players, but also the story of their wives. Particularly the life of Brad and Kimberly Tyler, who at this point had an infant daughter and were in the process of getting a house built when early on in the season, Brad got cut by the Brewers organization. To continue his career and make ends meet, Brad goes to Mexico to play for a team called the Oaxaca Guerreros. While in Mexico, Brad and Kimberly live in a one bedroom apartment with no oven and very little amenities. Yet Brad remains hopeful, and Kimberly is never wavering in her undying support of Brad's dreams. Fortunately for Brad, a team in America does sign him to a contract later on in the season, although he gets sent to double-A and because of that, has to miss his daughter's one year birthday party. Tyler never made it to big leagues, as he was 32 at the time of this film and only played one more year of baseball afterwards. Looking at his numbers, I don't see why he didn't get a shot, to be honest, as Tyler was a left-handed hitting outfielder with good speed (175 career steals), decent power (141 homeruns) and excelled at getting on base (a career .371 OBP). Originally a second baseman, Brad Tyler struggled some with the glove at second, according to his minor league stats, but he was skilled enough to at least earn a look in the majors at one point in his career. But, as is the case with so many others, Tyler just never got the call.

- Of the four players featured, Micah Franklin is the one that seems to be the most realistic about his chances of being called up by the Brewers. A veteran of the minor leagues who had a cup of coffee with the Cardinals and spent two years in Japan, Franklin spends the majority of the movie in a bit of a funk, as he has come to the realization that age 29, the best case scenario for him is a spot on the bench for the Brewers. To his credit, Franklin takes everything in stride, even as he gets off to a slow start and finds himself on the Indianapolis bench more often than he would like. Towards the end of the season, Franklin finds his stroke, and at one point hits an incredible six home runs in seven at-bats. The year was also memorable for Franklin because his second daughter was born during the season, and the producers are able to be with Franklin and his family as they bring his daughter back home from the hospital.

- Of the four players featured, the one with seemingly the brightest future would have been Peterson, a first round pick by the Brewers in 1997 who had pitched some in the bigs in 1999 before shoulder surgery. Even though the surgery has changed the way Peterson throws, the Brewers still though highly of him and after a strong start, called him up for a brief stint in the majors. However, after being sent down (to make room for the immortal Lou Collier), Peterson goes into a tailspin, struggling to get hitters out and to make matters worse, his shoulder is starting to hurt again. As the season progresses, things just get worse for Peterson, as he's put on the DL and eventually dropped from the Brewers' 40-man roster. As the film goes on, you start to feel bad for Peterson, a bright guy who later would graduate from Stanford University, as his once promising future becomes more and more of a question mark. Unfortunately, 2001 proved to be Peterson's final season in baseball, as he later had to have a second operation on his shoulder and never came back from it.

- The film's emotional peak comes at the end of the season, a disappointing one for the Indianapolis Indians, as the Brewers expand their rosters and add more players from the minors. A player who surely would merit a callup is Scuturo, who won the team's MVP award and whom everybody in the organization thinks is a future big leaguer for sure. Remarkably, Scutaro does not get the call, and you can see his frustration come through as all he can do is quietly ask the manager 'what more can I do?' I can't see why he wasn't called up either, my only guess is that the Brewers just hadn't seen enough of James Mouton and Angel Echevarria. Then again, the 2001 Brewers won't be remembered for their shrewd personnel decisions, and letting Scutaro go the next year is just one of the many mistakes made during this time period.

Overall, A Player to be Named Later is a rather interesting look at life on the outside of the major leagues, where players must ride the bus and aren't paid nearly as much as in the bigs. My only real complaint is that we really didn't get a whole lot of interaction between the players and their teammates, as most of the movie is just shot interview style with the subject while game clips are mixed in. It would have been interesting to see more of the interactions between a player and the manager or coach, or how the locker room is before and after a game. But nevertheless, A Player to be Named Later is a documentary worthy of viewing for any baseball fan. Overall, I'd give it a 7.45 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this or other posts, or ideas for future posts, than let us know them either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at

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