Sammy Bodean is the newest, most promising recruit according to the advertisement of the California Angels-and has to prove it come game time. Following the team's sale to young business whiz Gil Lawrence (Terry Kinney), ex-player Virgil Sweet (Edward James Olmos) has to prove himself as the team's talent scout to keep his job. Via a car break-down near a small farm-town in Idaho, Virgil stumbles across young Sammy Bodean (Jeff Corbett) who performs mean pitching skills in a rural sandlot. After bringing Sammy to LA where he pitches out the team's best, owner Gil begins a massive media campaign in which he appears in a press conference and not only brags of the boy's talent but of his intention to feature him-without warm-up or orientation-in the big game the following week. Virgil, though promoted to assistant manager, is upset at Gil's exploitative measures to save the slagging Angels at the expense of Sammy. Game day arrives and the pressure is on to keep the other team swinging, which causes young Sammy to choke. Or not. Talent for the Game is an upbeat, all-American baseball story for the family, though it contains a touch of profanity.
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Edward James Olmos, his face as weathered as the glove he packs in his suitcase, hits it out of the park as Virgil Sweet, a California Angels scout--"the last of a dying breed"--who travels from coal mines to cornfields in search of a phenom. His newest discovery is pitching prospect Sammy Bodeen, an Idaho farm boy around whom the team's hateful pony-tailed billionaire new owner orchestrates a massive marketing campaign. It's up to Virgil to ensure that the kid lives up to the hype. This 1991 drama struck out in its bid for a wide theatrical release, but until its credulity-straining Big Game climax and disappointingly cynical conclusion, it qualifies as the kind of "hold on to your dreams" sleeper that always connects with baseball movie fans. --Donald Liebenson
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