The Rookie

Inciting Event: After baseball practice with his high school team one day, Coach Jimmy Morris is talked into pitching to his catcher. He is reluctant at first (refusing the Call to Adventure), saying he’s “promised too many doctors.” But he eventually agrees and stuns the catcher with the power of his fastball.

This Inciting Event takes place relatively late, due to the movie’s having, essentially, two prologues. As a result, it takes a while for the main story to get its feet under it.

First Plot Point: After his team “gives up out there” and loses their season opener, Jimmy agrees to a deal with them: if they win enough games to go to state playoffs, he will find a major league baseball team to try out with.

All of the plot points in this movie are relatively subtle, but this is the entrance into the main conflict of the story: will or won’t Jimmy get another go in the major leagues?

First Pinch Point: One game away from winning district, Jimmy is offered a job in Ft. Worth. He is conflicted, since he wants to say with the team at his current school. But the need for more money pulls him away.

Again, this is a very subtle moment, but its true impact becomes evident later, since it sets up the importance of Jimmy’s making enough money to support his family.

Midpoint: After the team wins district, they line up to shake Jimmy’s hand and tell him, “Your turn, coach.” Jimmy finds a tryout with major-league scouts and, despite the fact he firmly believes his arm is much too slow, he pitches for them. To his shock—and theirs—his fastball registers at almost 100 mph.

This is an interesting Midpoint to take note of, since Jimmy’s desire to pitch major league ball really can’t be termed a goal in the first half. He has other priorities: getting his team to win and getting a better-paying teaching job. As a result, the Midpoint here doesn’t so much signal a move from reaction to action, as it does a change in focus.

It works very well thanks to the heavy foreshadowing in the beginning and the emphasis on Jimmy’s overwhelming, if latent, desire to play ball.

Second Pinch Point: After being called up by a minor league team, Jimmy is conflicted about what to do. He desperately wants to play, but he isn’t certain how it will affect his family. He asks his estranged father for advice and is told, “It’s okay to think about you want to do, until it’s time to start doing what you were meant to do.”

Although there’s nothing blatantly antagonistic about this scene, it’s a beautiful pinch point because it threatens what Jimmy wants. His strained relationship with his father is perfectly set up to emphasize the pain Jimmy feels over that threat. His wife Laurie then backs it up by outright telling him not to go.

The turn in the plot comes only later, when she changes her mind, and they decide he should go. He leaves home and enters the minor leagues.

Third Plot Point: Jimmy is in a pretty low spot from the Second Pinch Point on. He remains conflicted about his choice to chase his dreams, especially since his age offers challenges, both physically and socially. The Third Plot Point arrives when he learns from his manager that he probably will not be called up to the major leagues. He makes the decision to return home, but Laurie challenges him to make certain he’s doing it for the right reasons. He then enters a period of reflection and readjustment as he figures out where his priorities truly lie.

Climax: Jimmy is called up to play in the major leagues. The entire Climax features his first game, in Amarillo, in which he gets to pitch.

Climactic Moment: Jimmy pitches a strikeout using his fastball.

Resolution: Jimmy makes up with his father, reunites with his family, and experiences the support of his town.

Notes: With the exception of the overdrawn double-prologue (the second one was important, the first one was deadweight), this is a really nicely structured story. It’s an interesting study, since its structure is so much subtler than what we see so often in action movies and their like, in which the plot points are all hit as hard and blatantly as possible. Sometimes it’s difficult to figure out how to translate that kind of structure to a quieter, more character-driven story. This movie is a great example of exactly how to do that.

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