Little League

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since Rinehimer and O’Neill represented what is a minority of females in leadership positions on local LL boards.

“I thought it was great that our local TV station was doing it,” relates Rinehimer when she was approached for the interview. “I didn’t really think I was qualified to be a part of it, but it was a challenge and it was exciting.”

“Being able to talk about our league in such a context was a really awesome experience,” adds O’Neill who works at the station with Matkosky. “Greg and I are always talking about baseball and I am always talking about MALL and my experiences. One day I was telling him about the league and he asked if he could interview Pat and me.”

Although a very small part of the interviews made it into the film, Matkosky said that O’Neill and Rinehimer provided two important contextual details in the early stages of the film’s development -the organizational structure of an individual little league, or the “sweat equity” as Matkosky calls it. The challenges of a modern league and how they are solved, the different needs for volunteers to run a league, and the general local experience in a global organization were just a few of the things O’Neill and Rinehimer were asked to describe.

“Selecting what part of any interview is used in a film is an organic, alchemic process,” comments Matkosky on the difficult task of deciding what parts of what interviews make it into the film. “Things that are terrific are often overtaken by less spectacular responses that integrate more effectively with other commentary…This means that some great material is left on the cutting room floor, but… hopefully the audience’s attention is sustained by the content and the feel of what was selected and arranged to complement or contrast.”

Matkosky said that the October interviews also reflected the desire and the love of doing those jobs –the volunteerism that he found everywhere in the thirty plus Little Leagues in Pennsylvania and the others in a total of 12 states he visited.

“MALL represented that story that I found everywhere,” says Matkosky. “It is not unique to them but they are the reflection of it across all time. MALL was cast in the film to articulate and define the effort it takes to run a local little league both emotionally and physically. I’ve never seen anything as enthusiastically supported as Little League.”

Matkosky remarks that level of volunteerism is unique, not only in the fact that it exists and has lasted so long, but in the fact that it is also one of the most overlooked aspects of the organization. “What goes in to making the little league experience for kids is a dimension to which people don’t consider because they don’t have to. They’re watching their kids, but there’s a hundred thousand parents at that very same moment doing the very same thing all over the world. That geographic diversity is very impressive. “

“I have always been conscious of the bigger picture, I think that is why I got involved with the board,” adds O’Neill. “I don’t think I thought of it in such large, or even international terms, but I always had the sense that Little League was just special. It was a feeling I never felt watching my kids play other sports.”

As remarkable as it is, however, Matkosky notes a fragility to it all. Little League volunteerism is very much a revolving door, and perhaps that is the key to its longevity despite it being the source of that fragility. Most people volunteer while their children are between the ages of six and twelve. When they move on, there has always been another parent of a T-baller there to take his or her place. Matkosky explains that making the film made him wonder what would happen if all that volunteerism just stopped.

“If people stopped volunteering, Little League International in Williamsport couldn’t keep it up and they tell you that; but the fragility of it is hard to see because it is so well kept,” he says.

Rinehimer, who has seen Mountaintop Area Little League grow from being a loosely organized group of seven municipalities to a centralized organization responsible for the creation and maintenance of a five field complex, says it is that very aspect of her experience that keeps her donating her time year after year.

“We’ve met a lot of really neat people, and folks still come up to us or point us out in public and reminisce how I or my husband was their coach and they are thankful. Kids you coached are now doing the same thing with their kids. People come in and do what they can do, happy to help and make their contribution. It is just so fulfilling,” says Rinehimer.

Matkosky, who was on hand as the guest speaker for MALL Opening Day Ceremonies, was impressed with the community support for MALL, and that reinforced his decision to cast the league in the film.

“The community support in Mountaintop was very, very impressive. I did not expect it to be that big or that sincere. They are one of only two leagues in our region who own their own complex and are dealing with the ‘mortgage nut’ in order to have the kind of autonomy they enjoy here. Clearly the investment in keeping the organization private and free of municipal constraints appears to be well worth it,” notes Matkosky.

That sentiment is echoed by O’Neill. “There are always things to improve upon, always things we can do better. But what we have is very unique and very special and it was built and is maintained by volunteers who have no other reason to do the work but because they care, in one way or another, what happens to those kids out on the field.”

Perhaps for all these reasons, the history of the organization is often overlooked in the grand scheme of opening day ceremonies, cheese fries and all-star playoffs. However, the original vision of Carl Stoltz to use baseball as a vehicle to teach “character, courage and loyalty” has endured despite the challenges it has encountered and in all the ways it has evolved. Capturing that evolution was a challenge for Matkosky, and fitting all of it into just under an hour was his biggest challenge yet in his thirty-year filmmaking career.

“Every film I’ve ever done steeled me for this one, and it was mind blowing,” recalls Matkosky with a bit of a laugh. “Early on I began to see it would have to be a story told through a montage of different shots that are so short you feel them more than you see them.”

“It was intense.” continues Matkosky. “Sometimes you need to arrive at the field an hour before dawn just to get the perfect lighting with the sun at the perfect angle. The whole scene can sometimes be about the light and the shadows and the color –and you do that for every scene. But you always take the time to get it right. It’s just what you do. “

The film premiers nationwide on June 9 on WVIA TV. Trailers for the film can be found at wvia.orgor MALL’s facebook page. Once it premiers, our local little league will forever have a place in a history that spans generations of youth baseball, from the first little league team in 1947 to the 2013 Little League World Series in Williamsport, and every pitch, pop fly, strikeout and home run in between. Rinehimer is proud of that representation, and sees the film as honoring those who have volunteered for MALL in the past and will hopefully continue to do so in the future.

“We have had so many people put their effort and time into this league and it is an experience you always remember; How nice it is and what a good feeling it gives you to have people willing to do that. You can’t explain it and you can’t replace it.”