Boys of Summer

Creator: Robert
Age rating: Everyone
My dad, who has Parkinson's Disease, and I road-tripped 20k miles in two months to see a game at all 30 MLB stadiums. Result: the award-winning documentary, Boys of Summer. Second Base continues the adventure w/ support from the Oakland A's & throwing out a first pitch.
Synopsis: Dan originally proposed a piece-meal version of the trip to see all 30 stadiums with his son, Robert back in 1990. He wanted to get closer to Robert before life circumstances pulled them further apart. They saw four stadiums in 1990, then three more in 1991. Life got busy after that: graduation, work, retirement.

Dan was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2001. Time, once seemingly so liquid and abundant, suddenly sped up.

In early 2004, after rewatching Field of Dreams, Robert called his father and said they had to go now - while they still had time. They partnered with the National Parkinson Foundation and raised money from park to park by throwing tailgate parties with donated or discounted tickets, food and beverage. This helped them meet Parkinsonians, caregivers and experts in the field from across the country and, each time, gave them just enough money to get to the next park.

Though their idea was exciting and proven solid by pre-trip fundraising success, there were many challenges along the way - like the group’s second event in Houston where they bought several hundred dollars in tickets and had only forty dollars in sales. Or bringing 25 pizzas and drinks to a park where they were to meet with a local Parkinson’s group in Detroit, only to find out their coordinator had given the community members the wrong day.

Along the way, they learned about what Parkinson’s was and how varied its symptoms are from person to person, depending largely on which stage they are in. The Hoehn and Yahr scale is a five-stage measuring tool to approximate where Parkinsonians are in the disease. Dan was considered early onset at the time (stage one), with very few recognizable symptoms.

They met fellow baseball fans, many of whom had nothing to do with Parkinson’s, who donated money, food or a night’s stay at their own home to help make the trip possible. The Cochranes also camped in many locations to keep their costs down and connect with different parts of the country in unique ways.

In the middle of the trip, they stopped at the actual Field of Dreams filming location in Dyersville, IA. According to the owner, Don Lansing, the Cochranes were the first people allowed to shoot a commercial project on their property.

They met and interviewed Joe Buck, the Emmy Award Winning sports broadcaster whose father, also a legendary announcer, had Parkinson’s Disease. They sat in the Michael J. Fox Foundation office in Manhattan and interviewed co-founder, Debi Brooks about the state of Parkinson’s, in terms of research, as well as her own baseball adventures. Debi was amongst many PD experts who were certain PD was a “wedge disease” that would be cured within 10 years and unlock secrets to cure other neurological diseases.

One of the greatest challenges for Robert on the trip was accepting his father’s new found frailty. It didn’t lineup with the image he had of his father pre-diagnosis. This passing of the torch in regard to planning, fundraising and execution was critical and, at times, very difficult for Robert.

They finished the film on time (two months), on budget (less than $15,000) and in two pieces - Robert and Dan. Their relationship had grown ten-fold and was shown in the first film, which won the award for best documentary at the Riverside Film Festival (2006), then was selected for closing night honors in the Phoenix Film Festival (2006) where it played to an audience of over 500 people.

The film, which can be seen for free at www.bosmovie.com, went on to a few other festivals, but never found the distribution they hoped for. Out of funds and in need to move on in life, they counted their blessings and hoped for the cure.

In 2014, with many people still asking Robert how Dan was doing and no cure on the horizon, Robert decided to revisit the story. They started at spring training in Arizona, where Robert was a speaker at the Academic Conference for Baseball (“Nine”). Dan was now a grandfather to Robert’s two young children. HIs symptoms had progressed dramatically and he said he hoped “to be around long enough and functioning to see [his grandchildren] grow up.” Robert and Dan planned to revisit the six stadiums built since 2004 as a way of introducing their experience to the kids.

Before the trip even got off the ground, however, it was clear Dan’s health was much worse than Robert thought. Dan was having trouble doing simple things - getting up, dressed, fed. With nothing but pain pills being offered by his western doctors, Robert searched for a different approach and found it in, of all places, Las Vegas, NV. A chiropractor with a holistic approach to wellness heard about and enjoyed their story so much that he offered his services pro-bono.

Instead of hitting the road to see baseball games, Dan came to Robert’s home town of Las Vegas and spent the next three months receiving treatment 3-5 days a week. The conversation changed from a cure to quality of life. There were no promises made, but small victories along the way that added up to a massive shift in Dan’s approach to managing his PD: he could have significant impact on the disease based on what he did, rather than waiting around for a miracle pill or surgery.

The result of this time spent together, during which they still found ways to sneak in baseball, made up the film “Boys of Summer: Second Base”. The Oakland A’s recently hosted a private screening at the New Parkway Theater in downtown Oakland to approximately 100 very appreciate season ticket holders. They invited Robert to throw out the first pitch at the game the next night, where they played the trailer for the movie on the massive screens as Robert’s introduction.

Latest Work

  • Video 1 - Second Base
    09/26/17
    Creative Notes:
    Boys of Summer is an award-winning documentary series about baseball, Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and family. It begins at first base, w/ Dan Cochrane, who has PD, and his son, Robert Cochrane, road-tripping 20,000 miles in two months to see a game at all 30 MLB stadiums. Ten years later, with no cure for PD, they made the sequel, “Second Base”. Film #3, "Short Stop", is in production.