What are the perfect conditions for an epiphany? For one of those eureka moments, maybe even a word from God?
Perhaps while hiking alone with your thoughts on a peaceful trail in a national forest. Or while being moved to tears during a Bach cantata, or after reading a particularly riveting story. Or maybe during a time of prayer while scribbling away in your journal.
Or maybe it comes late one night, beer in one hand and remote control in the other, while channel surfing, and flipping back and forth between a cricket match in India and Susan Boyle singing "I Dreamed a Dream" on Britain's Got Talent.
Or . . .
That's just what happens in a pivotal scene early in Million Dollar Arm, the latest in Disney's string of feel-good, based-on-a-true-story sports movies. It's a lineup that began in earnest with 2000's terrific Remember the Titans, and has included such gems as The Rookie (2002), Miracle (2004), Invincible (2006), and Secretariat (2010).
Disney was due for another winner in this genre. Well, here it is.
Here's the deal. There are about 850 players in Major League Baseball. Some 26 percent are from outside of the U.S., including 83 from the Dominican Republic, followed by Venezuela's 59, Cuba's 19, and Puerto Rico's 11. Several nations have a few each.
India? Zip. Nada.
Such was the case in 2007 when sports agent J.B. Bernstein came up with a preposterous idea, sparked in part by that fictitious scene above. (It can't be real, because Boyle's unexpected breakout performance came in 2009.)
Bernstein, desperately seeking to sign the Next Big Thing in sports, decided to look for it in India . . . which had produced exactly zero professional baseball players in its history. Those cricket dudes can throw pretty hard, he thought. I bet we could train one to pitch in the majors. And, he figured, with 1.2 billion people, the odds were pretty good.
But how to find this diamond in the rough, the next slumdog millionaire? Why, with a reality show, of course.
Bernstein assembled a traveling road show called "The Million Dollar Arm" (thus the film's title), which would visit many of India's biggest cities. They'd invite local boys and young men out to throw a baseball at a radar gun. Anybody who could hit 85 mph or more got a serious look, no matter how wild their throws. The top two contestants would win big money . . . and an opportunity to come to America to train and, ultimately, try out for a major-league team.
Ridiculous? Yes. Even more ridiculous, it worked. (No spoilers here, but since it's a true story, you could easily look it up and see how it turns out.)
Perhaps the biggest surprise of all? Million Dollar Arm is a terrific baseball movie, a solid triple if not a home run. It's as good as Remember the Titans and The Rookie, the best of Disney's sports flicks. Maybe it's not in the Baseball Movie Hall of Fame with Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, The Pride of the Yankees, and Moneyball. But it's certainly in the on-deck circle.