Film celebrates miracle ball team PDF Print E-mail
Written by DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Arts & Entertainment Editor   
Saturday, 01 June 2013 09:01
Kyle Rase, left, and Bob Mahaffey after throwing out first pitch at Cleveland Indians game. (Photo provided)
Growing up in Bowling Green, Bob Mahaffey would go to Carter Park with his buddies and make films.
"Just silly stuff," he said, like a spoof of the television show "M*A*S*H."
These juvenile productions would get their premieres on the Mahaffey family's Brownie film projector.
After graduating from Elmwood in 1980, he went on to study business at Bowling Green State University, graduating in 1984, and going to work for CompuServe.
Mahaffey, 51, is the founder, president and CEO of Xcelerate Media, an e-learning company.
Still "my dream was always to make a movie."
Then a few years ago he was at a family gathering and heard the story of the 2005 Gibsonburg High baseball team that after going 6-17 in the regular season, won eight straight games to win a state title. It was the only team in the state ever to do that.
Not only did they win that game, but each victory hinged on some unexpected, quirky, maybe even magical, turn.
Mahaffey found himself thinking: "This is the movie I wanted to make."
Andy Gruner, 26, was the team's shortstop and second pitcher. He recalled sometimes his friends on the team would joke around about their championship run being like a movie.
And, the coach Kyle Rase, of Bowling Green, said soon after his team hoisted the state trophy his father encouraged him to write it all down. Rase, who still coaches the team, did. In time he would share those recollections with Mahaffey.
In a way the team's season did feel like a movie, Rase said, "we had so many lucky breaks."
Mahaffey worked these into a feature-length film, "Gibsonburg." The movie opens in 40 theaters around the state Friday, including at the Maumee Indoor Theater and Virginia Motion Pictures in North Baltimore.
To make his dream come true took about $250,000 and a cast and crew of 50 or so college-age volunteers found through social media. "People came out of the woodwork and wanted to be part of it."
He did bring in some veterans including comic actress Judy Tenuta and award-winning cinematographer Ginger Kathrens, from Bowling Green.
But mostly this was a "no-name" production.
He wrote a book about the team in late 2010, and then adapted into a film script. Filming took place in summer of 2011, and then he edited it in September through December. With the confidence of a successful entrepreneur Mahaffey sent the film off to the Dances with Films festival in Hollywood, a showcase for unknown filmmakers.
Mahaffey said 1,500 movies were submitted. "Gibsonburg" was one of 40 accepted, and based on its success there, it got a distribution deal.
After its run in June, it should be available through online streaming sites and be released as a DVD.
The goal was never to make money, Mahaffey said, rather he was driven by the desire to tell this story.
If the movie makes any money, a significant chunk will go back to the Gibsonburg baseball program.
In making the movie he used a number of locations in Gibsonburg, but also shot at a Columbus area school that had the same orange and black colors as Gibsonburg and Huntington Park in Columbus.
"We did everything in our power to stay true to the baseball part of the story," Mahaffey said. That included going over games pitch by pitch with Rase.
The other parts "we had a lot of fun with."
The story focuses on four players in particular Gruner, Alex Wyatt, Wes Milleson and Wyatt Kiser.
Gruner's character is clearly the lead on the field and off. At the screening, Gruner remembered that the team never let the losses, including seven games that were called early because they were so far behind, get them down. They were, he recalled, a small team competing against a number of larger schools.
Mahaffey works in some romance and even a "magic" coin. He said he'd rather not specify just what elements derive from real life and what sprouted from his imagination.
For him there is magic just in marshalling a bunch of underdogs to make a film about underdogs. Just getting the movie onto the screen makes it a success in the filmmaker's eyes. "Everything else," he said, "is gravy."

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