National Pastime

Genre: Comedy
Age rating: Everyone
National Pastime, a fly-on-the-wall mockumentary, which combines the every day awkwardness and cinematic sensibility of Best in Show, chronicles 3 coaches as they lead their respective teams of 11- and 12-year-old All Stars on a quest for the Holy Grail of youth baseball.
Synopsis: Inspired by true events...

National Pastime, a fly-on-the-wall fake documentary about the tainted culture of Little League baseball, chronicles three coaches and their teams of 11- and 12-year-old All Stars on their respective quests for the Holy Grail of youth baseball: the World Series trophy in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. It is in Williamsport, which has been home to the Little League World Series since 1939, where our coaches and parents give us an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the real heroes of the tournament.

Lester Clarke revered by some and feared by the rest, is perhaps the most successful coach in Little League history and is no stranger to the Little League World Series. He has won two championships, taking his first two sons from the ball fields of Thousand Oaks, California to the hallowed diamond of Volunteer Stadium in Williamsport. He now seeks a third jewel in his crown, which would tie the record and most likely secure his place in the coveted Little League Hall of Fame’s “Hall of Excellence”. Clarke openly admits that the only thing standing between him and history is his kids, and he threatens them into submission every chance he gets. When he isn’t drilling his team into a well-oiled machine, he can be found promoting his line of instructional videotapes and DVDs, “Lester Clarke’s You Can Coach Too!” (Available for a mere $24.95), which has become the bible for youth sports and a must-have for any parent or coach seeking triumph over children.

The Little League World Series’ festivities begin with a dinner to honor Lester Clarke with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his participation in youth sports, which Clarke believes is long overdue and well deserved. In his acceptance speech, he arrogantly explains how he will stop at nothing to take what is rightfully his. Lester Clarke revels in his own accolades.

One of the teams that will try to halt Lester Clarke’s march into the history books is the Lincoln, Rhode Island All Stars, coached by Jack Keaton and Abe Kessler. Jack and Abe did not attend Lester Clarke’s awards dinner because they were late in arriving to Williamsport due to an unfortunate incident with Hunter Steck on the side of the highway halfway between Rhode Island and Pennsylvania.

Hunter Steck was originally supposed to be the coach of the Lincoln All Star team, however, he was banned from tournament play for violation of Article 4, Section 9, Paragraph 3 of the Little League Baseball of America bylaws: “Failure to notify all players in a timely manner as to the correct location and time of all practices, games, and other team meetings and functions will result in immediate forfeiting of all coaching privileges.” It was initially alleged and later confirmed that Steck failed to tell three of his “less skilled” players about an upcoming game.
As a result of Steck’s suspension, Jack Keaton and Abe Kessler, two other coaches in the Lincoln Little League, agreed to take over the team. Since then, Hunter’s main goal has been to make Jack and Abe’s coaching experience a living nightmare by taunting their coaching strategies from the stands during games and interrupting practices whenever they have his son playing right field instead of shortstop, which Hunter calls a “shit position”. But, shortstop belongs to Jack’s son.

All arguments come to a head during their drive to Williamsport, as Hunter and Jack continue their relentless fight over whose son is a better ball player. Much to the dissatisfaction of their kids, who sit in the back seat listening to the debate in stunned silence, Hunter and Jack are forced to pull the car over to the side of the highway and hit ground balls to their sons in an open field until one of them makes an error, settling the argument once and for all.

Despite the many problems Hunter engenders, Jack Keaton and Abe Kessler, fellow co-workers, make a good coaching tandem. Abe does not have a child on the team and admits to a limited knowledge of baseball, however, he believes that their teamwork in the office can translate nicely to teamwork in the dugout. Sometimes, Abe is more of a distraction than a help to Jack. For example, Abe appears to be convinced of a few interesting facts that drive Jack absolutely nuts, most notably that he has superior sensory perception, and that he is, without a doubt, the reincarnation of John Wilkes Booth, the famed assassin of Abraham Lincoln. Jack often finds himself coaching Abe more than his team.

Speaking of being slightly unbalanced and possessing limited baseball knowledge, the last coach documented in National Pastime also did not make Lester Clarke’s award ceremony because he thought it would be much more beneficial for his team to take part in an unsupervised hike up the Pennsylvania Mountains to reconnect with nature after a long flight from Tokyo.
Frank Meyerson, a transplanted American coaching his son, Shigatoshi, on the Tokyo All Star team, quit his job as an investment banker and moved his family to Tokyo so he could more fully immerse himself into traditional Japanese culture. He married Sung-Mee, who at the time he thought was Japanese, only to later discover, to his disappointment, that she is Korean. Frank studies ancient Buddhist texts and applies them to his life and his baseball coaching philosophy. He tries to teach his team that the base paths are not the only paths that need mastering in baseball and in life. Unfortunately, his clueless Zen-inspired tangents make even less sense than his baseball strategies, and he often confuses his uncaptivated audience and himself along the way.

Even though neither Jack and Abe’s team nor Frank’s team make it to Williamsport in time to congratulate Lester at his awards dinner, they undoubtedly meet on the baseball diamond in the heat of competition where they all pit their egos and baseball knowledge against one another to compete for Little League’s highest honor and exhibit our National Pastime at its finest.

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