Stephenson saw five friends go on to the major leagues, however, including Mets player David Wright and Orioles pitcher Chris Ray. He says he wondered "what separated the ones that end up making it from the ones that don't." And he decided to find out.
He approached investors with the idea of making a documentary about what it takes to become a professional baseball player. After 30 meetings, Stephenson says, "I got 29 nos and one maybe." So, leaning on a loan and a few credit cards, he bought the equipment he needed and started making the film.
He interviewed professional players and coaches at colleges known for their baseball programs, including the University of Virginia and North Carolina State. He filmed "Perfect Game," an annual event where 1,500 of the nation's best young baseball players show their skills for a crowd of talent scouts. And with that material, he made "Prospect: The Game Inside the Game."
The film is not for the casual baseball fan, Stephenson readily admits, nor is it just a training video. It's an in-depth analysis of the mental aspect of the game, of tricks and tools serious players can use to prepare themselves for the draft.
Even apparent missteps on the field can be deliberate psych-outs, Stephenson says. Take, for example, a minor-league batter who swings at an outside curveball and deliberately misses. He looks bad, Stephenson says, until the pitcher sends him the identical pitch and the batter knocks it out of the park.
"Prospect" has attracted the attention of some big names in baseball, including agent John Boggs, who represents Cubs pitcher Mark Prior. Major league scout Mike Toomey wrote a testimonial for Stephenson, saying "even the most knowledgeable coaches and players will find this movie a worthwhile investment."
Now Stephenson's hoping the interest from the behind-the-scenes experts will widen to baseball fans, so he can recoup some of his $45,000 investment. He's already at work on a second film, a documentary about what scouts look for at showcase baseball events. To see a trailer of the movie or buy it, go to www.prospectmovie.com. Melissa Scott Sinclair
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