Television offers no shortage of baseball highlights and post-game interviews. Each week provides hours of footage that fans in any North American city can consume, even if they only catch the highlights that air in the final few minutes of the nightly newscast. These highlight reels often do a great job at piecing together the sense and importance of the game, as well as weave in any seasonal threads that might be lingering if it’s late in the year. With so much off this type of footage and storytelling available, it calls into question the whole reason why Chuck Braverman’s Bottom of the Ninth was made. Although it might be a love story to baseball and the competitive spirit to win, it’s also redundant as a film when like footage and story lines can be found on any station that airs even a little bit of baseball.
The Somerset Patriots are a team of baseball players who could-have-been and want-to-be. They’re single men and husbands, fathers and sons. Somerset isn’t a place where millions are made on the field, but there’s always hope that a hot streak will lead to getting a call from a Major League club. It’s a way to hold on to a dream and continue the pursuit of a championship.
Bottom of the Ninth follows the Patriots as they chase the Atlantic League title. Following an easy road to the playoffs, the majority of the 50-minute documentary follows the team’s time in the league finals. Braverman mixes game footage and running commentary with candid player interviews that carve out who the athletes are. The Oscar-nominated director does a good job at giving the team and Minor League baseball a personality. But at the same time, watching I wondered what the purpose was.
Watching Bottom of the Ninth I was reminded of several former players I recognized, such as manager Sparky Lyle, as well as connect faces with names I have in my collection of baseball cards of players whose rookie card and final card were one and the same. This worked as a hook for me to get into the film but that interest didn’t last long.
Braverman doesn’t go anywhere that others haven’t already gone. In fact, even though it’s more open than the public relations-filtered comments that are so common on most post-game highlight reels, it’s still very common thoughts and ideas. Combine it with the low-quality production and it really does resemble something done for cable. That’s not a knock on films that are forced to watch costs but rather call into question what the film was trying to accomplish.
Bottom of the Ninth Gallery