Filmmaker focuses on baseball in Alaska

February 19, 2010
By

Jillian Taratunio

Whether he’s covering Major League Baseball teams or amateur college leagues, Jamaica Plain filmmaker Jim Carroll says he never loses sight of telling the whole story and “getting it right.”

His latest creation, “Touching the Game: Alaska,” celebrates the history of the Alaska Baseball League and offers an inside look at the current teams.

“Touching the Game: Alaska” features interviews with major leaguers who once played for the Alaska Baseball League, such as current Red Sox team members J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie and manager Terry Francona. Former Red Sox pitcher Mike Timlin narrates the documentary.

Sarah Palin even makes a guest appearance to show her support for her team.

After working at the cable news channel NESN as an editor and producer of Red Sox and Bruins games for 12 years, Carroll founded Fields of Vision, a production company in JP. Carroll, a Forest Hills resident since 2003, said he wanted to focus on sports documentaries.

“We want to tell a story that people don’t know,” Carroll said in a recent interview. “I thought it would be great if people were aware of the great baseball up in Alaska.”

His first film, “Touching the Game: The Story of the Cape Cod Baseball League,” debuted in 2004 and sold more than 10,000 copies nationwide. Fields of Vision joined with Eye Candy Cinema, a Wellesley based production company, to form Touching the Game, LLC.

The name “Touching the Game” conveys “the closeness involved with the game. These kids are living in your town. They’re close enough to touch. You can really get to know them,” said Carroll, who wrote, directed and edited the films.

After hearing about the Alaska Baseball League, Carroll said, he wanted to explore the “frontier state with an incredible baseball history.”

The documentary also looks at the Midnight Sun Game that begins at 11 p.m. and ends at 2 a.m. Artificial lights are not needed because it’s played during the summer solstice when it stays light later the farther north one is.

Although players live with host families, they sometimes travel up to nine hours to away games. Bingo halls house players in the back rooms for the night. Players also spend the night in trailer parks.

Carroll said his crew went everywhere with the players, including the trailer park. “We were like flies on the wall.”

“It’s a boys-to-men type of thing. They’re on their own in a rougher atmosphere than they might be used to,” said Carroll.

Carroll said the most rewarding part of the experience is getting it right. “It’s about telling the story the way it is, without altering or sugarcoating anything,” said Carroll.

Since 1960, more than 500 players from the Alaska Baseball League have gone on to major league teams. There are currently more than 70 major league baseball players who have spent a summer playing baseball in Alaska, according to the documentary.

The soundtrack features local bands from Alaska. Carroll said he likes to give local artists exposure.

“Touching the Game, Alaska,” was shown in theaters in Boston and Alaska beginning last June. It became available for purchase at www.touchingthegame.com and www.amazon.com in December.

“Touching the Game: The Story of the Cape Cod Baseball League,” which tells the story of the Cape Cod Baseball League in the summer of 2003, has sold more than 10,000 copies nationwide.

Carroll said he’s unsure about his next project, “We plan to stay with the subject of amateur baseball, possibly somewhere international,” he said.