About The Production
Established in 1885, the Cape Cod Baseball League is a prestigious organization that showcases the best college ballplayers every summer. The players receive no money for participating in the 44-game schedule and are housed by local families on the Cape in Massachusetts for the 10-week sessions. The Cape League, though little known outside baseball circles, is a training ground for some of the game's best professional talent, including more than 100 current major leaguers. Hall of Famers like Carlton Fisk and Thurman Munson and all-stars such as Mo Vaughn, Frank Thomas, Jeff Bagwell and Nomar Garciaparra all played on the Cape Cod circuit.
It was this unique summer league that inspired producer Sam Weisman to begin developing "Summer Catch" four years ago. Night after peaceful summer night, Weisman, who lives in Chatham, found himself drawn back to Veterans Field, home of the Chatham A's. "I love the beauty of sitting out and watching a game on a summer evening, with the kids running around and the crack of the wooden bats," Weisman enthuses. "There's nothing like it. I've always felt it was a very pure kind of summer activity, where these players come down and test what they can do. It's a really intense experience."
Next, Weisman and company set out to find the perfect director — and found him in Mike Tollin, the producer of "Varsity Blues" and an award-winning documentary filmmaker. "I met Mike about three years ago when I was working on 'Varsity Blues,~~~ recalls executive producer Herbert W. Gains. "He's the biggest baseball fan I've ever met and he knows more about baseball than anybody I know."
"Our movie is about baseball at its purest," says Tollin, who received an Oscar nomination and a Peabody Award for his documentary "Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream." "It will hopefully remind people how and why they fell in love with the game. Through the years I've made a number of films with baseball backdrops, and I've gotten to know numerous Hall of Famers. Whether it's Aaron or Mays, Seaver or KouThx, the great ones all manage to retain their passion for the game. 'Summer Catch' is about young players having that passion tested and facing the biggest challenges of their lives."
Though the story is set in New England, the spring weather in Cape Cod was too cold and uncertain to consider filming there. The filmmakers needed to find a location in which they could re-create the idyllic, all-American summer vacation town in which this intense, make-or-break summer takes place. Their search for a more feasible location led them to the
warmer climate of Southport, North Carolina, a small seaport town with a strong New England flavor. The actors certainly didn't protest. "We spent the entire spring on the beach in beautiful North Carolina," Lillard says with a grin. "Days off, we played golf. It was the perfect job."
Once the filmmakers selected Southport as their location, they moved on to the next challenge: finding a ballpark. With all of the local fields being used for baseball season, the filmmakers needed a ballpark over which they had complete control for the four weeks they would be shooting the game sequences. The only available park in Southport was a derelict field, built in the 1950s by Little League volunteers, which had been abandoned and sat unused for over 20 years.
Led by production designer John Kretschmer, the "Summer Catch" production team designed and constructed a brand-new ballpark on the site of the abandoned field. Kretschmer based his design on hours and hours of videotape shot by Tollin, who had spent the previous summer in Cape Cod filming games on ball fields in little towns such as Chatham, Brewster, Harwich and Orleans. These tapes became a bible for the production designer. "We were fortunate to build the field from scratch, and to shoot during spring and summer," said Kretschmer of the fabricated Veterans Field. "I believ
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