Maumee Indoor Theatre, Fremont Paramount, and Virginia Clark Theatre in North Baltimore will be among the first to offer viewings of “Gibsonburg,” a movie about the 2005 Division IV state championship baseball team.
The movie is based on the true story of the Gibsonburg High School baseball team that finished the regular season 6-17, and then went on to win eight straight tournament games and a state title to finish 14-17 under first-year coach Kyle Rase.
They were the first, and still the only, baseball team in Ohio history to win a state championship with a record under .500. The movie, starring Louis Bonafante and Lili Reinhart, has even more drama in it.
“Along the road to the state championship a romantic love story unfolds as well as a mystery that rivals any discovery that has ever taken place in the Midwest,” a press release states.
Comedienne/actress Judy Tenuta is part of the cast and crew.
“Judy is playing the 'idiot' parent we all know,” Producer Bob Mahaffey said, “the one who screams at the umpires and the players.”
Tenuta was an MTV stand-up star who Rase remembers watching doing comedy skits with “Weird Al” Yankovic. Rase says getting to work with Tenuta was special.
“She was very, very nice and friendly,” Rase said. “She was great to work with. I didn’t know how she would be because she’s a big-time actor — her and Lily Reinhart, who has been in Law and Order and things. But she was great to everyone and some of the other guys who were amateur actors. She was trying to tell them some different things (acting tips).
“She lives in (Los Angeles), so when we came to a film festival, she came to that, too,” Rase continued. “She plays a screaming parent in the crowd and she plays that role pretty well. The other girl, Lili Reinhart, has a pilot that was just picked up by Fox for the fall.”
Five theaters in the Columbus area, six in the Cincinnati/Davton area, eight in the Cleveland area, four in southeastern and eastern Ohio, and five in the northern and western parts of the state will also carry the film. One of those is Van Wert Cinemas, which is near Rase’s hometown of Convoy, Ohio. The theater, which is on Lincoln Highway, has been rebuilt after being destroyed by a tornado.
“They are going to do at least a one-night showing (in Van Wert), so I’m kind of excited for that because I’ll get to see everyone I grew up with. I think I might be riding in a parade that afternoon. It’s fun to go home — I love going home,” Rase said.
Not only a parade back home, but the movie is getting help from professional baseball. Rase was to throw out the first pitch at Progressive Field Wednesday night when the Cleveland Indians were hosting the Cincinnati Reds. He also has similar first pitches lined up at Fifth Third Field in downtown Toledo and at the Columbus Clipper’s Huntington Park this season.
Exact times and dates have not been released, but visit GibsonburgMovieTimes.com or keep an eye on the movie theater’s websites. A trailer can be viewed at YouTube, on Facebook at GibsonburgTheMovie.com.
Last Sunday, a premiere showing was held at the Maumee Indoor, which was attended by the movie’s cast and crew, Rase, and most of the 2005 team.
“It was fun,” Rase said. “I not only got to see the 2005 team, but I got to see all of the people I’ve been working with in the movie for the past two years. It was a double reunion.”
Rase has a role in the movie, too, as an assistant coach.
I had a couple lines,” Rase said. “The interesting thing is all my lines are where I’m talking to myself. The most ironic thing is the guy who is the head coach has really become my best friend while we were making the movie, so we still talk and hang out a lot.”
Mahaffey, a writer, producer and director, started his own company, Xcelerate Media Inc., out of his garage in Dublin, Ohio, in 2003. Mahaffey is also a 1980 graduate of Elmwood High School, one of Gibsonburg's SLL rivals, and he still has family living in Wayne, near Bowling Green.
“I was having Thanksgiving at my sister's house in Wayne,” Mahaffey said, “and I talked to my niece's husband and he was telling me about this Gibsonburg team. I said this would be a great story for a movie.”
Mahaffey said he called Gibsonburg school officials about making an independent film about the 2005 state champions. Soon after, he began writing a screenplay and began searching for actors.
“I got all these college students, some from Ohio State, Ohio University…the college students are doing all the work on this film,” Mahaffey said. “I want to make it a good college experience for the college kids and I want to make a movie we're all proud of.”
Rase said he got a call from Mahaffey through former Gibsonburg Athletic Director Brent Liskai. Rase said he met with Mahaffey and his staff about a possible independent movie.
“I told most of the (Bears players) in December (2010),” Rase said. “They were excited. To see it actually come to where it was a project in the works, that was when we realized this was going to be happening. It's a great story about a great group of kids. The movie is 40 percent baseball and will be very close to our tournament run, and there's a Hollywood plot line. I haven't helped Bob with that. I pretty much stay with baseball and go through all the games with him.”
The actors portraying the Bears' players and coaches are college students. Mahaffey's plan was to begin by submitting the film to the Sundance Film Festival to be shown in January 2012 in Park City, Utah.
The baseball movie scenes were being filmed at three Columbus-area high schools – North Union, Dublin Jerome and Jonathan Alder – and at the Clippers’ Huntington Park, where the state final four is held. Locally, Mahaffey's crew has filmed several scenes at Gibsonburg's Ideal Bakery, owned by John Schnell.
“The bakery is the focal point of the movie,” Mahaffey said. “That's the hangout. That's the only place we're shooting in Gibsonburg. When you walk in there you can see it's swimming with character. It's been in their family since 1933 and it's just a beautiful setting for a movie. We're probably shooting there seven or eight times; we've already shot there three times.”
Mahaffey had a $250,000 budget to shoot the movie. His crew included Emmy-award winning film maker and Bowling Green native Ginger Kathrens, assistant director Jessica Browne, and award-winning music producer Kelly Bryarly.
Mahaffey said he has talked with every member of the 2005 squad, but one in particular stood out.
“Andy Gruner is the star of the movie,” Mahaffey said. “I've spent countless hours with coach Rase and I've looked at the (game) footage and gone over every pitch – from their first game against Bettsville to the state finals against Fisher Catholic. From the footage, it seemed that Andy was a very good leader on that team.”
Junior pitcher Alex Black earned the win in the championship game, throwing three innings of one-hit ball in relief of Gruner. Gibsonburg scored what proved to be the winning run in the top of the seventh inning when senior Wes Milleson reached on a two-out error, stole second and later scored on a single by senior Derek Hetrick.
Other Bears who played in the championship game included junior shortstop Wyatt Kiser, senior catcher Thom Brinker, sophomore pinch runner Scott Stevenson, freshman third baseman Cody Fisher, senior first/second baseman Brandon Beck and senior right fielder Derek Eddings. Black pitched all but 11 innings during Gibsonburg's eight-game tournament run.
“After school that summer I worked up at the school with Derek Eddings and it seemed like we were thinking about it all the time, still not believing we were able to do it,” Gruner said in an interview with The Press when the movie was announced.
“Now that the years have gone by, I think about it every couple months. I'll run across the DVD that we showed at the school ceremony a week after the game, and it really gets my goose bumps going.”