The turn of the calendar each year to April means only one thing: Baseball is back.
And according to recent articles by Buzzfeed and Yahoo! Sports, baseball movies are back too. The Yahoo! Sports article created a fantasy draft using only fictional characters, while the Buzzfeed article formulates a baseball team based only on movie characters.
You can check out their choices for a fictional baseball team by following the links. But I will save you the trouble: Their picks are questionable at best.
Before I reveal my picks, let me share my ground rules.
First, no real players playing themselves or movie characters. The character cannot be based on a real player, either. Also, no animated characters. Third, you can’t use the same actor twice. Let’s just call this the Wesley Snipes/Kevin Costner Rule.
Fourth, you can change a character’s in-movie position if it makes sense. A center fielder may move to a corner outfield spot, but a first baseman can’t move to shortstop, for example.
Last, no more than two players from the same movie, even a sequel. This rule does not apply to coaches.
Now that the rules are established, let’s get started.
Beginning with the lineup (including DH), pitching rotation, bullpen, bench and lastly coaching staff, here are my choices for the best fictional baseball team, and let the debate begin:
1. Willie Mays Hayes, CF, Major League
This one is a no-brainer.
Even though Major League has a number of players worthy of making this team, one of the two available spots has to go to Hayes.
He plays like Mays and runs like Hayes. Hayes is the best leadoff hitter in any movie. He molded himself in a single season into the leadoff hitter he is, and he now hits grounders to utilize his speed instead of pop-ups.
There is no question that Hayes is my leadoff hitter every game.
2. Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez, SS, The Sandlot
Rodriguez is the quintessential No. 2 hitter.
He is fast, smart and can make good contact with the ball. And judging from the long scene where The Jet is running from The Beast, Rodriguez has had stamina and agility from a young age.
There are not many movie shortstops, or players in general, who can compete with Rodriguez.
Plus Rodriguez grows up to have an absolutely devastating mustache.
3. Rex “T-Rex” Pennebaker, LF, Mr. 3000
Pennebaker is the reformed superstar.
He is the cover boy for MVP Baseball in the movie, and he puts up gaudy stats. By the end of the season, Pennebaker was hitting roughly .330 with 50 home runs. He combines those monster numbers with ample speed and defense.
In a matter of months, Pennebaker took over the clubhouse and became a true leader. He turned the team of bottom feeders into a rising team that finished a respectable third place.
Pennebaker is a natural leader and one of a handful of players in history who can flirt with a 40-home run, 40-stolen base season.
He is a superstar in every sense of the word, and a lock as my No. 3 hitter.
4. Roy Hobbs, DH, The Natural
Every modern-day team needs an aging veteran who rejuvenates his career through no logical reason other than sheer talent.
Hobbs could’ve been the best to ever play baseball, and even at his old age he is a fearsome hitter.
In the book version of The Natural, Hobbs’ game-winning debut sparks a rainstorm on what was originally a dry and grassless field (symbolism!). In the movie, Hobbs’ debut turns the entire season around for a team.
There is not a more clutch or feared hitter in fictional baseball history than Roy Hobbs.
5. Lou Collins, 1B, Little Big League
Tough to pick anyone other than an All-Star who led the league in batting average. He plays outstanding defense, too.
Collins is a class-act on and off the field. Collins reminds me of a fictional Adrian Gonzalez or Wade Boggs. Both players won’t lead the league in power categories, but they will consistently play great in every aspect of the game.
The second choice was Clu Haywood of Major League.
Haywood led the majors in most offensive categories, including nose hair. That offensive output is tough to pick against. He also has the passion and winning attitude you build a team around. But I simply can’t pick a guy who threw at his kid during a father-son game. The younger guys would naturally look up to a superstar athlete like Haywood, and that attitude would cripple the locker room.
I also need to save the second Major League character I could use.
Another possible choice was Jack Elliot of Mr. Baseball. Elliot is a powerful hitter and has the best nickname of anyone, but I can’t trust players to make the transition from the Japanese league to MLB.
Plus there is only room for one glorious mustache on this team.
6. Dottie Hinson, C, A League of Their Own
Before anyone starts clamoring for Crash Davis of Bull Durham or Jake Taylor of Major League, let me explain my pick.
Crash is better than Dottie. Crash can hit and field and throw better, and he does a great job of turning Nuke LaLoosh from a cocky youngster into a bona fide ace. Crash seems like the perfect, prototypical catcher.
However, Crash is a full-time minor leaguer. For some reason, not a single organization has decided to take a risk on Crash as a major league catcher. There is something about Crash that is not evident in the movie, but it has kept him from ever making a single major league appearance (aside from those 21 glorious days in The Show).
Whatever reason Crash has been stuck in minor league purgatory his whole career, I do not want to be the first to take the risk on him.
Taylor is also just as good a pick as Crash. He is an All-Star and a good hitter and leader. But since I cannot load my team with players from Major League, and I already have Hayes, Taylor is out.
On the other hand, Dottie is a fully capable player.
She has shown an ability to hit for average and power. Dottie is also a superb defender and is capable of some pretty acrobatic plays. Dottie always wanted to be under-the-radar, but she thrived when she had the leadership role thrust upon her.
In the end, I would’ve picked Taylor without any self-imposed rule limitations. But I am still just as strong with Dottie behind the plate every game.
7. Ray Mitchell, 3B, Angels in the Outfield
Before all the angels came to guide the team, Mitchell was the only player who could hit.
Moreover, Mitchell could hit well.
There is not much other cinematic competition at this position.
Roger Dorn of Major League is the only viable choice, but Dorn was selfish. He refused to put his body in the way of grounders in the position that most requires you to put your body in front of the ball. Dorn learned that trait, as well as hitting, as the season progressed.
Once again, though, Dorn is cut simply because I have one remaining available slot from Major League.
Since the team is aided by angels all season it is tough to pick anyone from this movie, but Mitchell was the only hitter to prove he can play without the angels. He wins in a close one.
8. Kelly Leak, RF, Bad News Bears
Leak played center field in the original Bad News Bears and shortstop in the remake, so his move to right field makes sense given his arm strength, natural athleticism and versatility.
If it does not make sense to some, then Leak can move to DH and Hobbs can move to his natural (pun intended) right-field position.
Regardless, Leak is a gifted athlete and hitter. He had unbelievable range in both movies, and singlehandedly hit the Bears from dead last into the championship game.
As long as he has a clause in his contract against smoking on the field and potentially hazardous activities off the field, Leak easily makes the team.
9. Mickey Dominguez, 2B, Summer Catch
Dominguez was not the flashiest second baseman, but he was solid all around. He showed off some fancy defensive skills at times, too.
Besides, how could I not pick the same actor who played Fez in That 70’s Show? One of the funniest sitcom characters ever.
Another choice was Marla Hooch from A League of Their Own. Hooch had quite the bat and singing voice, but there was one deciding factor that some tend to overlook: She quit midseason.
That’s right. Marla Hooch quit halfway through the season to get married and start a family.
My fictional team comes before your marriage and that is non-negotiable.
Hooch is out. Fez is in.
1. Bingo Long, The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings
Bingo Long is a no-brainer as the ace of my pitching staff.
Long’s character is based loosely on the great Satchel Paige. He is played by Billy Dee Williams, who is best known as Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars series. The hysterical Bingo Long film follows the high-flying and entertaining times of barnstorming in baseball, and stars James Earl Jones as a power-hitting catcher and the legendary Richard Pryor.
Long is the confident power pitcher that I want leading my rotation. In some instances, Long had teammates stand along the base line for the first pitch of the game, which the batter never hit.
Similarly, Paige himself used to wave his outfielders to sit behind the pitcher's mound as he struck batters out.
If that kind of confidence and borderline arrogance does not define a No. 1 pitcher then I don’t know what does.
Long wins in a landslide.
2. Steve Nebraska, The Scout
Despite Long’s victory for No. 1 starter, Nebraska is a phenomenal baseball player, both on the mound and at the plate.
While the movie is downright awful, Brendan Fraser’s character is quite the opposite.
Nebraska hits triple digits on a radar gun with ease and crushes towering 500-foot home runs. He threw an 81-pitch, 27-strikeout perfect game in the World Series. His final pitch clocked at 112 mph and knocked over the catcher and umpire.
Nebraska can do it all. If my No. 2 starter is consistently hitting 109 mph, I think my rotation is fairly strong.
3. Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh, Bull Durham
He may have had a million-dollar arm and a two-cent brain, but by the end of the season Nuke was a budding ace.
Nuke is another power pitcher, and his fastball is a golden pitch.
Furthermore, Nuke flew through the minors, and he is a once-in-a-lifetime prospect. He is a must-have in the rotation, especially at No. 3.
Nuke also showed an ability to take flak from teammates, particularly Crash. As a youngster, that trait would suit him well. He should definitely enjoy being made fun of for his gawky windup, as well as being called “Meat” a bit longer.
4. Billy Chapel, For Love of the Game
Chapel is a Hall of Famer in the twilight of his career, and a veteran presence on my team.
And if his final performance proved anything, it is that Chapel has still got it. There are not too many better sendoffs to a superb 20-year career than a perfect game.
Even though Chapel’s arm and hand are still injured, he still has plenty to give. And Chapel only retired because of how the owners and the game have changed over the two decades he played. If Chapel knows he has job security, he will come back more motivated than ever.
Every team also needs a veteran pitcher that will teach the younger players about the league. That is what Chapel will bring.
5. Henry Rowengartner, Rookie of the Year
Before there was Adrian Peterson, there was Henry Rowengartner.
Rowengartner suffered a serious shoulder injury, but the surgery tightened his tendons enough that he now throws an unhittable fastball. Similarly, Adrian Peterson suffered a torn ACL two seasons ago, but came back this year better than ever.
While Peterson’s recovery was a result of
hopefully not performance-enhancing drugs hard work, Rowengartner’s newfound abilities were a freak accident.
Nevertheless, Rowengartner is brimming with the kind of confidence and cunning you usually don’t find in 12-year-old major leaguers.
As long as those tendons hold up, he is a superb No. 5 pitcher who will inject some youth into the team.
Reliever: Ryan Dunne, Summer Catch
Dunne was a starter in his mediocre movie, but for my team he will be in the bullpen.
Dunne has a number of mental distractions that he had to overcome throughout the movie. By the end, he is able to utilize his serious potential and earn a chance with a major league team. Dunne may not have pitched yet in the majors, but the Cape Cod League is a deeply talented league, and many future major leaguers play there.
However, there is one ultimate reason why Dunne will begin in the bullpen: While he was one out from a no-hitter, Dunne ran off the field to win back the woman he loves.
Unacceptable. Even if it is Jessica Biel.
Once again, my team comes before everything. Dunne must prove in the bullpen he can maintain his focus, and then he may earn a few spot starts.
Reliever: Henry Wiggen, Bang the Drum Slowly
Wiggen is a player who firmly believes he will be a Hall of Famer one day.
Even though Wiggen is better suited as a starter, I need lefties in my bullpen. He and Dunne both provide that.
Wiggen is good enough to be a Hall of Famer, and he would replace Billy Chapel in the rotation once Chapel’s arm falls off.
Reliever: Jim Bowers, Little Big League
Bowers is not a well-known character from Little Big League, but he is a great pitcher.
His quirky antics are a bit too odd for me to trust him as a starter, so Bowers will instead be middle relief.
But Bowers throws hard and is certainly capable of eating innings out of the bullpen.
Reliever: Kit Keller, A League of Their Own
Keller can throw forever, and she is convinced she lives in Dottie’s shadow.
As a result, she has something to prove every time she steps on the mound.
Keller is a perfect setup man and eighth-inning pitcher for my team.
Closer: Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn, Major League
This one is a no-brainer.
Whoever recruited Wild Thing out of the California Penal League deserves an immediate promotion.
No closer can compare to Wild Thing. As long as he keeps those glasses on, Wild Thing is unhittable. He has reformed his attitude, too.
Wild Thing is the best closer available, and his presence is worth missing out on some of the other great Major League characters.
Crash Davis, C, Bull Durham
Not quite good enough to be a major league starter. But Crash knows the game of baseball better than anyone. The prototypical backup catcher.
But for those who decide Kevin Costner cannot be in my bench and pitching rotation, I will go with Hamilton “Ham” Porter from The Sandlot. He is also a smart player and solid hitter.
Jack Elliot, 1B, Mr. Baseball
As mentioned earlier, Elliot is a fearsome power hitter. I cannot quite trust him to adapt seamlessly from Japanese baseball to the majors, but he still makes the team as backup and pinch hitter.
Tanner Boyle, UT, Bad News Bears
Scrappy and feisty. Boyle can play a number of positions and provide high energy off the bench.
Charlie Snow, OF, The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings
The character portrayed by the legendary Richard Pryor, Snow is a phenomenal athlete and fielder. He can perform well on offense and defense.
Manager: Jimmy Dugan, A League of Their Own
Tom Hanks. Enough Said.
Hitting Coach: Pop Fisher, The Natural
Fisher is an old-school coach and somewhat stubborn. But he is a good leader and coach, especially when the team is winning.
Pitching Coach: Phil Brickma, Rookie of the Year
Funniest coach in a baseball movie. I’m not sure how much coaching he will actually do, but Brickma can keep things loose.