3.5 Stars
Year Released: 2004
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 86 minutes
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Aptos, California. 50 miles from San Francisco. In this town, with a population of 24,121, one of the major highlights here is the Aptos All-Stars, a little league baseball team that’s been active for seven years. And on the cusp of many major victories, their year has come. The Holy Grail for little league baseball teams in the U.S. and all over the world is the Little League World Series, and the All-Stars are well on their way to getting there in Williamsport, Virginia.
The boys on the team, made up chiefly of 12 year olds, have been playing together for years, going all the way back to their T-Ball days. They love baseball and a sibling or two are interviewed onscreen, talking about their brothers’ obsession with the game. When baseball games are not being played, then there are games among each other in driveways and baseball video games take up time too.
The odds are heavy when it comes to trying to make it to the Little League World Series. More than 7,000 teams around the world try to get there, and the pressure mounts on every team, including the boys of Aptos, and especially their coaches and parents. Dave Anderson leads the pack as the team’s manager and believes that it’s his position that sets the tone for the team. The team also has some help from Mark Eichhorn, a former major league pitcher who is now the All-Stars’ pitching coach. This team is not all about the kids, though as the parents are just as dedicated to the sport and sometimes even moreso than the kids, even to the point of living vicariously through their kids and their victories. Joann Godoy, mother of Brian Godoy, admits that this is the biggest thing that their family has ever won.
Dave Anderson is seen under major pressure during one of the games when he is terse at his son, Kevin, for the plays he made out there on the field. Kevin’s visibly upset about it, and his pop doesn’t let up. In a post-game interview, Anderson is highly contradictory in which he claims that the kids are mainly here just to have fun and there’s not too many expectations.
Even so, the importance to them about getting to the World Series with how far they’ve gotten already is understandable. They sweep through such tournaments as the District Championships, the Sectional Championships and the heat is really on. For the coaches, parents, and the kids, there’s that sweet taste of victory that will likely be even sweeter if they make it to Williamsport. Watching the kids participate in these games, they find this incredibly important as well. It’s obvious that they want to please their parents and coaches, but more than that, it’s a time for them to shine, for them to be seen more widely than they have in the past. Frustrations are evident on the mound as bats are pounded on the dirt after an out, and there’s also post-game tears for one of the players, his mother keeping a safe distance for the moment because it looks like he doesn’t want to be comforted right away.
“Small Ball” also get kudos for the neat way it begins and ends the end credits. One of the players sits in the play-by-play announcer’s booth and reads off names of the principal crew of the documentary, even pronouncing one of their names wrong, but that doesn’t matter much. Kids are kids and this documentary successfully shows one set that truly loves baseball and all the joy that it brings to them, even when times are tough during their games.

Posted on March 11, 2004 in Reviews by

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