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    SUBJECTS — Sports/Baseball; U.S./1991 - present;
    MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Trustworthiness;Responsibility; Caring;.

    Age: 9+; MPAA Rating -- G; Drama; 2002; 129 minutes; Color; Available from Amazon.com.

    Description:     In 1999 Jim Morris, age 35, was the oldest rookie that the major leagues had seen in 40 years. He pitched relief for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays during the last weeks of the season and for all of the 2000 season. This film accurately recounts the essentials of Jim Morris' inspiring story of fulfilling commitments, hard work, devotion to excellence, and second chances.

    Benefits of the Movie:     Mr. Morris' experience demonstrates that if you meet the challenges of life with integrity and commitment, those challenges can turn into unexpected opportunities. The film was sold by Hollywood as a tale of second chances. That is accurate on one level. However, when analysed fully and supplemented by other events in Mr. Morris' life, the lessons to be learned from this film include: that in order to make your dreams come true, you must fulfill your commitments, do your best, work hard, be lucky, and then, at some point, be willing to accept the hand that fate has dealt you.


Benefits of the Movie
Possible Problems
Parenting Points
Selected Awards & Cast
Helpful Background
Discussion Questions:
      Subjects (Curriculum Topics)
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)
Bridges to Reading
Links to the Internet
Assignments, Projects & Activities

WORKSHEETS: TWM offers the following worksheets to keep students' minds on the movie and direct them to the lessons that can be learned from the film. Teachers can modify the movie worksheets to fit the needs of each class. See also TWM's Historical Fiction in Film Cross-Curricular Homework Project.

    Possible Problems:     MINOR. While many reviewers loved the film, some panned it. A typical comment was that "[t]he Rookie is feel-good film making at its worst. Everything about it smacks of the standard cookie-cutter crowd pleasers that the studios crank out all the time." Daily Reviews.com, by Brian Matherly. However, the fact that the story is true, means that the film will work as a teaching movie.

    Some alcohol use is shown. In an early scene, while the hero is at his job at school, a woman walks by and pats him on his derriere. It turns out to be his wife.

    Parenting Points:     Review the Helpful Background section and describe its contents to your child. Then ask and help your child to answer the Quick Discussion Question.

QUICK DISCUSSION QUESTION:  Evaluate the following major achievements of Jim Morris' life and rank them in order of importance: (1) working through the problems he had in his marriage and keeping his family together; (2) being a good father to his children; (3) learning how to be a good high school teacher and coach; and (4) breaking into the major leagues. Justify your response.

Suggested Response: There is no correct response except that breaking into the major leagues should be ranked last or next to last.

    Selected Awards, Cast and Director:

      Selected Awards:  None.

      Featured Actors:  Dennis Quaid, Rachel Griffiths, Jay Hernandez, Beth Grant, Angus T. Jones, Brian Cox.

      Director:  John Lee Hancock.

    Helpful Background:

    At 35 years of age, Jim Morris was the oldest major league rookie in 40 years. He played the end of the 1999 season and all of the 2000 season with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He appeared as a reliever in 21 games. Morris signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the 2001 season but injured his arm in spring training and retired. For Morris' statistics, see Score Card for Jim Morris at Baseball-Reference.com.

    There are a number of points about Morris' life that are interesting and important that weren't shown in the film. Knowledge of these facts will enhance the social-emotional learning and ethical issues to be learned from the movie.
    As a child Morris was so focused on sports that he was only a mediocre student. He first attempted a career in the major leagues when he was a young man. This effort took years of his life that other people spent in college or starting a career. Morris later looked on those years as wasted and it was difficult for him to pick up and start a normal life again. A few years after he had washed out in his first try at the majors, Jim Morris went back to school, mostly part-time because he had to help support his family. In all, it took him 14 years, thousands of dollars in student loans and time away from his wife and children to get a college degree. He graduated with excellent grades.

    When Morris was 28, he played football at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas. He was an All-American punter, leading the nation with an average of 44.5 yards per kick. He also dreamed of punting professionally but the professional football teams weren't interested. This was a dream that Morris was not able to pursue.

    Jim Morris and his wife had serious problems with their marriage and separated twice. According to Morris, his marital problems were caused primarily by his own lack of maturity. But he and his wife worked at it and they got back together.

    If you looked at Morris' life the day before his tryout with the Devil Rays, you would see a man who had suffered a major disappointment but who, after several years, had recovered and was making a good life for himself. He had finally gotten his college education. He had a wife he loved and children he adored. He enjoyed his career as a high school teacher and coach.
    These aspects of Morris' life are just as inspirational as his short stint in the major leagues and have more relevance to what will be the experiences of a vast majority of the young people who watch this film.

    Being the right person at the right time always plays a role in success. "Some, including Morris himself, question whether he would have made the majors if not for the 'novelty' factor. As Morris progressed through the minors, there was already considerable national media coverage and talk of a Hollywood version of his story. In his book, Morris writes that he thought many others were more deserving to be added to the Devil Rays' expanded September roster, but his agent, Steve Canter, told him to hang tight. 'The Devil Rays, Steve explained, were fast losing fans who'd lost interest in the losing team, and they needed a good story to tell,' writes Morris." ESPN Page 2 - 'The Rookie' in reel life by Jeff Merron.

    This film combines two of Hollywood's tried and true formulas: the team of underdogs who triumph and the hero who overcomes the odds and attains his lifelong dream. There were a few points in the film that don't appear to have a basis in reality but they are minor. They include, the scenes of the nuns at the beginning and the end of the picture; the episode about the deer eating the grass on the baseball field; and the episode in which Morris pitches to a roadside radar sign. The portrayal of Mr. Morris' father exaggerated his deficiencies as a parent.

    The location of most of the events in the film, the town of Big Lake, Texas, is a town whose economy was based on oil. Santa Rita No. 1,the area's first "gusher" started a boom in 1928. Since that time more than 140 million barrels of oil have been pumped from the Big Lake oil field. Santa Rita No. 1 was named the "Oil Well of the Century" by Texas Monthly and was productive until 1990. The University of Texas is one of the richest universities in the country, in large part because of its ownership of the land on which the oil was discovered. [Derived from ESPN Page 2 - 'The Rookie' in reel life by Jeff Merron.]


For English Language Arts classes, distribute TWM's Film Study Worksheet. Teachers can modify the worksheet to fit the needs of each class. Ask students to fill out the worksheet as they watch the film or at the film's end.

Are you concerned that time will be wasted if you are absent from class? Worry no more  .  .  .   Check out TeachWithMovies' Set-Up-the-Sub.

Click here for TWM's lesson plans to introduce cinematic and theatrical technique.

Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.

Give us your feedback! Was the Guide helpful? If so, which sections were most helpful? Do you have any suggestions for improvement? Email us!


    Discussion Questions:

    1.  See Discussion Questions for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction.

    2.  Read this paragraph written by the well-regarded movie critic, Roger Ebert:
    "'The Rookie' combines two reliable formulas: The Little Team That Goes to State, and the Old-Timer Who Realizes His Youthful Dream. When two genres approach exhaustion, sometimes it works if they prop each other up. Not this time, not when we also get the Dad Who Can't Be Pleased However Hard His Son Tries, and the Wife Who Wants Her Husband to Have His Dream But Has a Family to Raise. The movie is so resolutely cobbled together out of older movies that it even uses a totally unnecessary prologue, just because it seems obligatory. I know, it's based on a true story, but a true story that seems based on old movies...." Roger Ebert.
    Name a movie that uses the "little team that goes to state" or the similar "underdog who prevails against all odds" theme.

    3.  What is the willing suspension of disbelief? If this story had been fiction, would you have believed it? What does this tell you about good fiction, including movies, novels, short stories and plays?

Select questions that are appropriate for your students.

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For suggested answers click here.

    Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions:

    1.  On the day before his tryout with the Devil Rays, was Jim Morris a happy man? What was the state of his life at that time?

    2.  Should Morris have been dissatisfied with his life had he thrown a little slower and had he not been picked up by the Devil Rays?

    3.  Jim Morris' students helped make a big difference in his life. Can you think of any situations in your experience in which a child helped an adult with a difficult decision or life passage?


    4.  Jim Morris was a multifaceted athlete with enormous talent. Up until his tryout with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and his great stroke of luck, did that talent help him in his life?

For suggested responses click here.

    Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)

    Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.


    (Be honest; Don't deceive, cheat or steal; Be reliable -- do what you say you'll do; Have the courage to do the right thing; Build a good reputation; Be loyal -- stand by your family, friends and country)

    1.  It looked as if Jim Morris would simply embarrass himself at the tryouts. What would he have lost if he had stayed home that day?


    (Do what you are supposed to do; Persevere: keep on trying!; Always do your best; Use self-control; Be self-disciplined; Think before you act -- consider the consequences; Be accountable for your choices)

    2.  It's very difficult to throw 12 straight balls over 96 miles per hour with excellent accuracy. After all, Jim Morris didn't think he had any chance of making the team. What would have happened if, when Jim Morris had tried out, he hadn't given his all? What if he had just pitched well and only achieved speeds of 80 miles per hour?


    (Be kind; Be compassionate and show you care; Express gratitude; Forgive others; Help people in need)

    3.  Allowing Jim to go to the minor leagues was a great hardship on his family. Why did Jim Morris' wife encourage him to play in the minor leagues? What does that have to do with caring?

Teachwithmovies.com is a Character Counts "Six Pillars Partner" and uses The Six Pillars of Character to organize ethical principles.

Character Counts and the Six Pillars of Character are marks of the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition, a project of the Josephson Institute of Ethics.

For suggested responses click here.

    Bridges to Reading:

      Game Day by R. Young -- Nonfiction -- Grades 3 - 5;
      Batboy by J. Anderson -- Nonfiction -- Grades 3 - 6;
      The Good Days of Baseball: Sixteen True Sports Stories by Terry Egan et al -- Nonfiction -- Grades 3 - 6;
      Me, Mop and the Moondance Kid by Walter Dean Myers -- Fiction -- Grades 4 - 6;
      Shortstop from Tokyo by Matt Christopher -- Nonfiction -- Grades 4 - 6;
      Finding Buck McHenry by A. Slote -- Fiction --
      Grades 4 - 6;
      Glovemen: Twenty-seven of Baseball's Greatest by George Sullivan -- Nonfiction -- Grades 4 - 7;
      Hang Tough, Paul Mather by A. Slote -- Fiction --
      Grades 4 - 6;
      Bobby Baseball by R.K. Smith -- Fiction -- Grades 4 - 6;
      The MacMillan Book of Baseball Stories by Terry Egan et al -- Nonfiction -- Grades 4 - 6;
      Great Moments in Baseball by Matt Christopher -- Nonfiction -- Grades 4 - 6;
      They Shaped the Game by W. J. Jacobs -- Nonfiction -- Grades 4 and up;
      Babe and Me D. Gutman -- Fiction -- 4 and up;
      The Story of Baseball by L.S. Ritter -- Nonfiction -- Grades 5 and up;
      The Kid from Tomkinsville by J.R. Tunis -- Fiction -- Grades 5 and up;
      Over the Wall by John H. Ritter -- Fiction -- Grades 6 and up;
      Satchel Paige by Kathryn Long Humphrey -- Nonfiction -- Grades 7 - 9;
      Baseball in April and Other Stories, by Gary Soto -- Fiction -- Grades 7 - 9;
      Choosing Up Sides by John H. Ritter -- Fiction -- Young Adult;
      Moves Make the Man by Bruce Brooks -- Fiction -- Young Adult;

MOVIES ON RELATED TOPICS: See the Sports/Games Section of the Subject Matter Index.


PHOTOGRAPHS, DIAGRAMS AND OTHER VISUALS:   Internet Movie Data Base Photogallery for this film.

    Bibliography: In addition to websites which may be linked in the Guide and selected film reviews listed on the Movie Review Query Engine, the following resources were consulted in the preparation of this Learning Guide:

    • The Oldest Rookie by Jim Morris and The Oldest Rookie: Big-League Dreams from a Small-Town Guy by Jim Morris, Joel Engel;
    • Best Books for Young Adults by Betty Carter, Second Edition, Young Adult Library Services Association; 2000;
    • Our Family, Our Friends, Our World by Lyn Miller-Lachman, R.R. Bowker, Providence, New Jersey, 1992;
    • Children's Catalogue, Eighteenth Addition, edited by Anne Price and Juliette Yaakov, the H.W. Wilson Company, New York and Dublin, 2001;
    • Best Books for Children -- Preschool through Grade 6, Sixth Edition, edited by John T. Gillespie, R.R. Bowker, New Providence N.J., 1998.

Last updated December 17, 2009.

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