Gung Ho (1986) meets The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
LOG-LINE: Sports has brought families, cities, and even the entire country together during tough times. This film documents a group of homeless men who form a slow-pitch softball team while working at an automobile assembly plant. Work AND the team lift the homeless men’s spirits.
This isn’t your average church or workplace group getting together to play slow-pitch softball. For years, the men called shelters in various parts of the country their home.
Each player is haunted to a degree. Some are fighting addiction. Some have been to prison. Some have disabilities, but are too proud to take welfare. Some have simply been unlucky. All have been at one time productive members of society. They all have flashbacks to one or more instances of success.
They need confidence. You can imagine; being homeless, you feel like you’re nobody. They really just want to help themselves. They really just want jobs. However, finding work hasn’t been easy.
Jaymore Etienne was a former professional baseball player in thousands of Triple-A games and played in just one game in Major League Baseball. Etienne has battled drug and gambling addictions throughout his life, but Ameripolitan Ministries gave him and many others a chance for a fresh start.
The homeless men play and all of a sudden everything changes. The change is sparked by a simple game on the diamond. For the first time in a long time, Etienne is smiling, high-fiving and hugging the people around him.
It’s like having a family. Etienne has responsibilities now. People are counting on him. It is Etienne’s team and they depended on him. He feels like somebody again.
There are four rival softball teams that fight it out for the Michigan state championships – Ford GR-1s, Chevrolet Aerovettes, the Catholic Crusaders and Lutherans Laymen.
Jean F. Hamtramck is the plant manager of the Chrysler plant. Sick of never making the four team state finals, Hamtramck, over the years has built a lot of animosity. Hamtramck rejects his own unmotivated employees and instead launches a nationwide search for homeless players. With building a dream team in mind, he puts them on a bus to Detroit.
WORKING AT THE PLANT
Hamtramck’s corporate bosses will not let him hire the men. The labor union opposes the plan. However, Hamtramck is able to create an unpaid intern program. Hamtramck uses the men and tells them if they win the state championship, then they can have the jobs.
They work at the plant and live in tents only a few yards away. The work, eat and sleep at the plant. They religiously practice every day.
They face work place challenges – jealousy, ridicule, and some have a slow learning curve. The slowly reenter the work force. Despite all the difficulties, eventually they catch on and become a part of the plant. Many contribute ideas to improve things. They also contribute blood and sweat.
The union workers go out on strike (or there is a bankruptcy reorganization) and the plant closes. And during this time, the homeless men, (without help) build a concept car.
Funny thing about these homeless men; they do NOT win the state championship. They make the final four teams and play in front of a large group of people. Local cable television carries the game. But they don’t win it all…
However, they prove themselves as valuable to the car company. After seeing the positive press resulting from going so far in the state softball tournament and after seeing the concept car, Hamtramck’s corporate bosses insist that they are hired full time.
DETROIT TIGERS SUB PLOT
After finishing the season 12-1, the Detroit Tigers wants to congratulate the team and extended them an invitation to see a game. The trip to the ballpark is great.
Etienne and his teammates are in awe when they arrive at Comerica Park, and it even brings a tear to some of their eyes.
It’s like a dream come true. They all love sports and had “the dream” at one time, and they haven’t see a game since becoming homeless. Several have never seen a Major League Baseball game.
They get more than just the experience of seeing a game. They are inspired. A few Tiger players want to meet them in-person and commend them on all their success. The Tiger players even start following them via twitter and the internet. The Tiger’s request scores and updates as the homeless team progresses their way into the state championship. Even during the middle of high stakes major league game, the Tigers are concerned about the softball team.
Even the public address, television and radio announcers get reports of the softball scores and disseminate that information. All of Detroit is following the team given all the publicity.
“I’m almost more starstruck by them,” a Detroit Tiger player says to the media. “They’ve been through so much and were able to turn it around.”
The professional players are just as inspired by the homeless men as the homeless men are inspired by them. Perhaps even more, as the Tigers are invited to tour the auto plant and see the homeless men at work.
The men call the concept car they make, The Chrysler Tiger.
The Tiger manager tells the press, “We had no idea the impact it would have on the players. Not just the players, but our entire Tiger community.”
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