class aAn unforgettable chronicle of a year of minor-league baseball in Clinton, Iowa town follows not only the travails of the players of the Clinton LumberKings but also the lives of their dedicated fans and of the town itself. Award-winning essayist Lucas Mann delivers a powerful debut in his telling of the story of the 2010 season of the Clinton LumberKings in Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere.

Along the Mississippi River, in a Depression-era stadium, young prospects from all over the world compete for a chance to move up through the baseball ranks to the major leagues. Their coaches, some of whom have spent nearly half a century in the game, watch from the dugout. In the bleachers, local fans call out from the same seats they’ve occupied year after year. And in the distance, smoke rises from the largest remaining factory in a town that once had more millionaires per capita than any other in America.

Mann turns his eye on the players, the coaches, the fans, the radio announcer, the town, and finally on himself, a young man raised on baseball, driven to know what still draws him to the stadium. His voice is as fresh and funny as it is poignant, illuminating both the small triumphs and the harsh realities of minor-league ball.

Part sports story, part cultural exploration, part memoir, Class A is a moving and unique study of why we play, why we watch, and why we remember. (description from publisher)

Sugar follows the story of Miguel Santos, a.k.a. Sugar, a Dominican pitcher from San Pedro De Macorís, struggling to make it to the big leagues and pull himself and his family out of poverty. Playing professionally at a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic, Miguel finally gets his break at age 19 when he advances to the United States’ minor league system.

Miguel quickly finds that he’s not the only superstar at spring training; there are hundreds of highly talented prospects all trying to land spots on one of the team’s minor league affiliates. Despite this new level of competition, Miguel proves himself exceptional on the mound even here, and lands a spot with the Single-A affiliate in Bridgetown, Iowa – the Swing (actually Davenport, Iowa).

In Bridgetown, Miguel is assigned to a host family, the Higgins, an aging Christian couple who live in an isolated farmhouse. The Higgins are devout Swing fans, and every year they house a new young player from the team. They try to treat Miguel like part of the family, inviting him to dinners, bringing him to church, and even encouraging a tenuous friendship between Miguel and their teenage granddaughter Annie.

Miguel’s domination on the mound masks his underlying sense of isolation, until he injures himself during a routine play at first. While on the disabled list, Jorge – his one familiar connection to home in this strange new place – is cut from the team, having never fully regained his ability following off-season knee surgery.

The new vulnerability of Miguel’s injury, coupled with the loneliness of losing his closest friend, force Miguel to begin examining the world around him and his place within it. As his dream begins to fall apart, Miguel decides to leave baseball to follow another kind of American dream. His odyssey finally brings him to New York City, where he struggles to find community and make a new home for himself, like so many before him. –© Rotten Tomatoes

Parts of the movie were filmed in Davenport at John O’Donnell Stadium ( now Modern Woodman Park) in the summer of 2007 with the team at that time Swing of the Quad Cities. Many Quad Citians were in the movie as extras. All the extras were given T-shirts that said ‘Sugar Davenport Iowa Summer 2007’, plus they were paid. The movie first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in early 2008 were it was called one of the most critically acclaimed films at the festival. The premiere for the movie was held April 24, 2009 in Davenport at the Cinema 53.

An excellent little baseball movie that never got its due was Pastime.  Good luck finding it on any “best” lists.  Released in 1991, it is the story of an aging minor league pitcher named Roy Dean Bream seemingly holding on just for the love of the game or nowhere else to go.  Set in 1957, Bream is the only player halfway civil to a humble black rookie pitcher while the rest of the team addresses him as a pariah.

Either this little gem never got released or didn’t have any marketing budget.  Apparently some people other than myself enjoyed it…it won the audience award at Sundance and features cameos by Bob Feller, Duke Snider, Ernie Banks, Don Newcombe, Bill Mazeroski and Harmon Killebrew.