The ’90s were the golden age for kid friendly baseball movies. With Little Big League, viewers could imagine themselves as the manager and owner of your favorite baseball team. Angels in the Outfield allowed you to team up with real angels (and a real Tony Danza) to turn around a season, and The Sandlot honed in on the happiness that comes from playing hardball with your friends. As Thomas Ian Nicholas, the star of Rookie of the Year, points out to us, though, only his film allowed kids to vicariously live out their dream of playing in the big leagues.
It’s been 23 years since 12-year-old Henry Rowengartner took the bump at Wrigley and hurled blazing fastballs past Major League superstars like Bobby Bonilla and Barry Bonds thanks to a freak arm injury. In honor of the film’s anniversary, we reached out to Nicholas via email to talk about the experience of growing up on the Wrigley Field set, working with Gary Busey, and how fast his own fastball is.
Were you a baseball fan growing up? Did you play in Little League before the movie?
Just like Henry, I grew up in a single-parent household and being raised by my mom, I didn’t really watch sports. After the film, of course, I became a fan of the Cubs and I still am.
How about your fastball? Have you been clocked? Just a touch slower than Henry’s?
My fastball is a change up. I think I was clocked once at a whopping 47 mph.
Can you talk about the experience of working with Daniel Stern and Gary Busey?
Working with Danny was amazing. He was incredible and a lot different than the characters that he plays. I ran into Danny and his son Henry in 2006 at a Bruce Springsteen concert. Would love to see him again. Gary Busey was crazy, but he was the nicest to me. In fact, one time on set he carried me by my underwear for 25 feet in front of 100 crew members and again, I repeat, he was the nicest to me.
John Candy filmed after us. But I met him later and he was the nicest guy ever.