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About The Production
With a movie featuring so many key roles played by young actor/athletes, casting was incredibly important. It was also a major undertaking. Executive producer Herbert W. Gains explains, "We always felt we wanted children from Chicago wherever possible, because we felt they would better relate to our movie." Although athletic tryouts were held in several American cities, the filmmakers were pleased that local boys filled so many roles.

As Baseball Coordinator Mark Ellis breaks it down, "There are a lot of baseball scenes in the film. Some of these scenes are of actual game play, while others are dialogue sequences with the ballfield as backdrop. It was important that the actors had some experience playing the game." Ellis and the production team interviewed 600 youngsters during two days in Chicago alone. From there, 350 were invited to a three-week training camp, and eventually 40 made the cut for major and minor roles in the picture.

All of the boys in the cast have a passion for performing, but what makes them really shine on the field is their love of athletics. The training camp director Brian Robbins and Baseball Coordinator Mark Ellis set up was organized so that the mornings consisted of rehearsal and acting lessons while afternoons were spent honing baseball skills. Robbins relates that Acting Coach Bob Krackower videotaped the rehearsals and would later play it for the boys' mothers (who delighted in seeing their kids in action). The young cast members also impressed Ellis: "It is great that director Brian Robbins cast really athletic actors. These guys are good athletes."

Hot off his 1999 smash hit action film, "The Matrix," Keanu Reeves brings an openness and athleticism to his role of reluctant baseball coach Conor O'Neill. It was sports that gave the actor one of his earliest breaks in the movies. Raised in Toronto, Keanu took a keen interest in ice hockey during high school--as team goalie, he earned the nickname, "The Wall"--and eventually scored a supporting role in the Rob Lowe hockey film, "Youngblood," which was filmed in Canada.

Reeves thoroughly understands the correlation between sports and maturity. As he recalls, "sports were an important part of growing up. The physical development, awareness of space, competition, teamwork and the leadership of a coach - all relate to the travails of life. Things like failing and succeeding and developing one's own thinking all can be learned through athletics."

One of the young actors was more relieved than the others upon meeting Reeves: "My parents told me that many actors are mean. So I expected him to be a little edgy and stuff. But he turned out to be a really nice guy."

Another young co-star, Kristopher Loften, who portrays 'Clarence,' says Reeves was always playing with the kids: wrestling, teasing them about "The Matrix", talking about his life. Loften also has high praise for director Brian Robbins and Robbins' rapport with the pre-teenagers:

"Brian just tells us - 'You guys, we're going to try to get this scene in two takes. If I mess up, you guys can beat me up. But, if you mess up, it's another story!'"

For the director, this film was truly a dream come true. Brian Robbins is the producer, with business partner Mike Tollin, of several successful Nickelodeon TV series (including the popular "Kenan & Kel," "Cousin Skeeter" and "All That") and the Paramount Pictures/MTV Films movie, "Good Burger," which he also directed. Robbins has received numerous Image Award nominations from the NAACP as well as honors from the Directors Guild of America (for Achievement in Children's Programming) and Nickelodeon's Kids Choice Awards. He scored big helming the hit Paramount Pictures/MTV Films high school football drama, "Varsity Blues". He has produced and directed such acclaimed projects as "Sports Theater with Shaquille O'Neal," and "Hank Aaron: Chasing the<


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