"I see great things in baseball, it's our game - the American game. It will take people out of doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism repair their losses, and be a blessing to us." - Walt Whitman (circa 1866)
Nowhere was the tradition of baseball's roots in Americana more evident than in tiny Norway Iowa, population 586, where the exploits of Norway High School became legendary. From ESPN to Baseball Weekly to the Wall Street Journal, reporters mused at how a school of fewer than 100 students could win 19 State Baseball Championships, frequently against schools five times their size.
Baseball and winning against impossible odds was in the blood of these skinny, farm kids, passed down from generation to generation like a lucky glove. Coach Jim Van Scoyoc (played by Powers Boothe), three time State Coach of the Year and, more recently National Coach of the Year, gets most of the credit. He's a baseball man's baseball man‚ whose look of disapproval can melt concrete. He believes in teaching fundamentals and coaching to win the last game, not the next game.
Kent Stock (played by Sean Astin) remembers reading about Norway baseball as a kid. After playing baseball in high school and college he accepts a teaching position in nearby Belle Plaine. Although he plans to marry soon and work for his future father-in-law, he can't pass up the opportunity to be an assistant baseball coach at Norway.
From working on the field to hitting fly balls to the state championship game, it's the best summer of Kent's life. As the 90-91 school year begins, Kent moves to St. Louis and starts to work as a bank teller while his fiancée Jen (Holly Bonelli) busily plans their upcoming nuptials.
But things are happening back in Norway. Bad things. One day Jim shows up at Kent's bank - declining enrollment and increasing state regulations are turning rumors into reality, Norway will probably lose both its high school and Jim, who for years rankled the ire of School Superintendent Harvey Makepeace (Marshall Bell) and looks to be out of a job after the school year. No coach, no summer ball and no chance for Norway to win its 20th state championship.
Kent decides to go back and enter the fray, but when he asks Jen to delay their wedding plans, she explodes, and offers him an ultimatum. Thus ends their engagement.
Meanwhile, town meetings become more heated. Polly Morgan (Rachel Leigh Cook), who is there to represent the state, and Kent are caught up in numerous head to head, discussions. The Norway kids join the fight to help save their school, but all is lost when the announcement comes down Norway will close, and Jim will not be offered a position at Benton Community.
The glue that has held Norway teams together for so many years is melting away. The players are fighting among themselves. The team's MVP decides to forego summer ball, if there is to be summer ball. Makepeace and others conspire to let the team fall on its face, rather than prevent them from playing. And Kent Stock, the inexperienced coach, is the perfect sacrificial lamb.
A town that has for decades believed in their little team that could, all but gives up on them. It's Kent's task to prove to the boys and himself he can do it. Amidst all the fury, Kent and Polly, formerly on opposite teams, fall in love. The Final Season is a film about a young man caught in the struggle between tradition and progress - between a future filled with security or uncertainty - and a community's struggle to save its identity in the face of overwhelming opposition.
The Final Season tells the story of a team that wouldn't give up. In the summer of 1991 Norway High's baseball tradition ended on a triumphant but somber note and great losses were repaired, at least for one shining moment. The Final Season is destined to be baseball's version of Hoosiers.
Principal Photography completed July 6, 2006
Screened at Tribeca Film Festival 2007
October 12, 2007
A MESAGE FROM SEAN