Small Ball: A Little League Story

2004, 85 minutes, produced and directed by Louis Alvarez and Andrew Kolker
Small Ball: A Little League Story, first seen nationally on PBS in April 2004, captures the hope, thrills and excitement of players, parents and coaches as a team of 11 and 12-year-old Little Leaguers go from their small northern California town all the way to the 2002 Little League Baseball World Series Championships in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

With 6400 Little League teams in the U.S. all vying to be one of eight that get to play in the Little League World Series every summer, the chances of finding a team that would go all the way would seem to be slim to none. But filmmakers Louis Alvarez and Andrew Kolker were lucky: the twelve kids from Aptos, California who they started filming in May 2002 turned out to be amazing players who survived four grueling tournaments and found themselves at the Nirvana of youth sports, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, home of the World Series. The story of their journey is the subject of Kolker and Alvarez's new feature documentary for public television, Small Ball: A Little League Story.

Small Ball is a clear-eyed, unsentimental, and revealing behind-the-scenes look at one aspect of the youth sports phenomenon. Resilient kids, involved parents, and strong-willed coaches all play their roles against a backdrop of game-time emotions and superb athleticism.

For years, the folks in Aptos, California, just south of Santa Cruz, had been grooming a group of kids to become a Little League dream team, and in 2002 those dreams came true. Coached by a semi-conductor salesman named Dave Anderson and a retired major league pitcher named Mark Eichhorn, the Aptos All-Stars set themselves a goal that would seem to be almost impossible to attain: a berth at the legendary Little League World Series. But Aptos had power, skills, stamina, and plenty of luck. And they dominated their opponents like Sherman did Georgia, from local games to the state tournament to the regional championship and ultimately to the Big Show.

Along the way there were setbacks, surprises, and plenty of emotion, particularly for the parents, and Small Ball brings it all to life. Alternately funny, charming, poignant, and thought-provoking, Small Ball: A Little League Story will appeal to viewers of all ages and temperaments — even folks who (shudder) don't like baseball.

Small Ball was shown nationally on PBS on April 14, 2004.