The Importance of Male Role Models: “Angels in the Outfield”

AngelsOutfield

Now that summer is here, we decided to take  a look at the 1994 Disney film, Angels in the Outfield. While it is a fun baseball movie, the storyline goes much deeper.

Roger, about 12, is the protagonist of the film, and JP, about 6, is his good friend. The boys are both foster children whose parents are not involved in their lives, and they live in California with their foster parent, Maggie.

Roger’s father greets him at the beginning of the movie, only to inform him that he is still not ready to care for him right now. He rides off on his motorcycle without even saying goodbye to his son. Now Roger has hopes that if the California Angels improve their baseball season and win the Pennant, his father will return, and they can be a family again.

Twenty-four million children in America–one out of three–do not live with their biological fathers. This “father factor” affects a tremendous amount of social issues in these children’s lives, including poverty, emotional and behavioral problems, education, crime, substance abuse, child abuse, and teen pregnancy and sexual activity [Source].

Roger and JP are big fans of the Angels. While they are at the game one day, Roger’s ticket number wins him a photo opportunity with the team’s manager, George Knox. Knox is very stern and angry, as the Angels are last place in the league. However, Roger is somewhat of a good luck charm at the games (you will find out more if you watch the movie), and Knox invites him and JP to all of the season’s games.

Over the course of the season, Roger and JP crack Knox’s hard shell, and he learns patience and kindness. For example, when Knox prepares to drive the boys home from the game one evening, JP cannot bring himself to set foot in Knox’s car.

“JP doesn’t ride in cars because he used to live in a car with his mom,” Roger explains to Knox. Without any hesitation, Knox invites the boys onto the Angels’ spacious tour bus and drops them off home. Knox also organizes a pickup baseball game for the children in Roger and JP’s neighborhood, and he teaches several of them some new batting tips.

Before going to sleep that night, JP asks Roger if he thinks his parents will ever come for him.

“I don’t know… my mom’s not alive, but my dad’s gonna come get me. I’m sure of it,” Roger says.

It is heartbreaking when foster children place so much hope on their parents’ return because it is never a guarantee. However, it is natural for children to want to be reunited with their parents, regardless of what they have done to neglect or abuse them. Their parents are often all they know of love and family.

After a traumatic occurrence in family court one morning, Roger is left very hurt. His father has once again let him down.

Knox visits Roger right away and tells him how sorry he is about what happened, but Roger does not think Knox is being sincere at first; he says Knox doesn’t know what it’s like.

Little does Roger know, Knox had a similar childhood.

“You know, Roger, when I was growing up, I never saw very much of my dad. He couldn’t take care of himself, so taking care of me and my brothers was out of the question,” Knox tells him.

“I’m not sure the pain that caused ever goes away,” Knox continues. “But I am sure you can’t go through life thinking everyone you meet will one day let you down. Because if you do, a very bad thing will happen… you’ll end up like me.”

This is a turning point in the film for Roger and Knox. Their relationship is strengthened because Roger realizes how much he cares about him.

Do the Angels win the Pennant? What happens to Roger and JP? You will have to watch to find out. Angels in the Outfield is a great film for youth. It is heartwarming, both funny and poignant, and it is an enjoyable baseball movie for the start of summer.

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[Photo source]

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