Reviewing "Time in the Minors"
The percentages are against those who begin a Minor League
career hoping to one day get that call to the big leagues. So the percentages
were equally against independent documentary filmmaker Tony Okun picking two
faces in the crowd and getting the chance to chronicle such an ascent.
So, no, we don’t get that rise in “Time in the Minors,” Okun’s
recently released film that follows two players — an eight-year Minor League
veteran named Tony Schrager and a newly signed first-round pick named John
Drennan — through the 2006 season. What we get is more the Minor League norm: two
guys, at two distinctly different stages in their career, whose experience in
the professional game is one of big adjustments, low pay and long road trips.
At the risk of spoiling the ending, neither of these guys got
the call to the bigs in ’06. In the present day, Schrager has
moved on from the game and Drennan is still plying his time in the Indians’
system (he was at Double-A Akron in 2010). Maybe Okun’s film would have
benefited from the ability to show Schrager getting that long-awaited call and
the emotion of the moment, but it certainly succeeds in instead reflecting
reality. Minor League baseball, after all, is all grind and no glory, and the movie does a
fine job of stressing that.
Schrager’s tale is the more compelling of the two. The film
takes a look at a season that saw a 28-year-old Schrager humbly accept a job
with an independent league team when no professional unit came calling, only to
latch on with the Marlins’ organization when they had a need for middle-infield
depth. We see how the threat of a dream denied begins to weigh on Schrager and
his wife, though I thought Okun could have delved a little deeper into the
mounting frustration and lack of opportunity that ultimately led to Schrager’s retirement and a new career in real
Drennan’s annoyingly vague California surfer speak doesn’t make
him all that compelling a character. But Indians fans will enjoy seeing the
club’s Minor League operation behind the scenes, including some fine shots from
the decrepit Winter Haven spring facility (which is probably worth a
documentary in its own right). And Drennan homers off a rehabbing Roger
Clemens, so that’s pretty cool, too.
Overall, what you get here is an honest look at what some might
be surprised to learn is an unglamorous profession. It serves as good food for
thought for young ballplayers anticipating a pro career, and it’s also worth a
look for those curious about the inner workings of the Minor League game.
Here’s the link to Okun’s web site, where you can check out the
trailer and order the DVD.