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Emerald Diamond, The
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by brianorndorf

"Top o' the batting order to ya"
5 stars

“Emerald Diamond” is the new documentary that takes a good, long look at the Irish National Baseball Team. Ireland has a ball club? They do, and director John Fitzgerald has made a wonderful documentary telling us all about it.

Baseball is commonly referred to as “America’s Pastime,” but the U.S. is losing their ownership of the game with each passing year. Growing in popularity by leaps and bounds all over the globe, baseball has become something of a renegade sport in various countries, where a select few have taken up the good fight to bring the game to the masses.

John Fitzgerald’s documentary, “The Emerald Diamond,” takes a look at the attempts of the Irish National Baseball Team to be taken seriously in the face of a country that doesn’t understand them, and a game they’re only just beginning to comprehend the fundamentals of.

The team was born in 1996, as an antidote to the softball leagues that had begun to wear thin on the patience of the participants. Starting up with just 15 players, the team held practices in local swamplands, created makeshift backstops with wood and chicken wire, and used stolen equipment. They were ambitious fellows who were looking to scratch their ball-playing itch, yet keeping one eye on a bigger picture of international competition that was slowly becoming a possibility.

As the picture walks through the years of difficult growing pains and hardships that plagued the team, Fitzgerald keeps the mood light and positive, staying focused on the personalities of the players over their actual achievements. The filmmaker interviews a good cross-section of the original team, getting these shy men to open up about their experiences with a blushing honesty and a good deal of Irish humor. The viewer has the chance to understand the passions of the club more cleanly, which leads to a much deeper appreciation of their sacrifices and the humanity of their mistakes. Fitzgerald makes you feel part of the gang, effectively adding to the suspense of the team’s rise to prominence and the sting of their humiliations.

Acting as chapter stops throughout the documentary are the trials of the European Baseball Championships. Fitzgerald uses the squad’s visits to the world series of international play as a method to covey the growth of not only skill and popularity, but also teeth-grinding determination. The film traces the rise of the Irish from a group of inconsequence in 1996, getting their behinds handed to them from the likes of Sweden and Lithuania, to actually making a dent in the 2002 series, where their confidence finally took over, along with a generous portion of ability. It’s not quite the golden Hollywood ascension to sporting dominance, but it’s a swell look at a team coming together with grace, believing in itself, and keeping their dignity even in the face of overwhelming defeat.

As the Irish team develops a reputation as a class act, their influence is felt all over the country. Throughout the years other teams have formed, crossing traditionally skittish Catholic/Protestant lines in the name of good, clean fun and friendly competition. The youth of Ireland also stepped up their interest, joining local little league and T-ball teams to build their throwing skills (one forgets that Americans shoot out of the womb being able to throw something, while other countries lack that skill) and satisfy their curiosity with this peculiar American game. Fitzgerald illustrates the wonderful effect baseball is having on the culture with these moments, and the warmth radiates off the screen. It takes every last ounce of might to not book a flight to Ireland just to play catch with these wonderful folk.

What Fitzgerald has with “Emerald Diamond” is a marvelous documentary that not only gets the joy of playing baseball, but makes room for the reverence that traditionally follows skill. America has slowly stripped the pleasures of the game away through a century of unapologetic greed and unfiltered ego; “Emerald Diamond” restores the innocence of the sport for 90 wonderful minutes, easily ranking as one of the best documentaries I’ve seen this year. The Irish National Baseball Team, much like other countries currently building their clubs, is where the heart of the game lies today. I highly recommend this opportunity to live the dream with these hard-working men and their amazing journey.

For more information, and to purchase a copy of “The Emerald Diamond,” please visit: irishbaseballmovie.com

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15631&reviewer=404
originally posted: 01/05/07 01:47:27
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USA
  25-Feb-2006 (NR)
  DVD: 15-Oct-2006

UK
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Australia
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[trailer] Trailer


Directed by
  John J. Fitzgerald

Written by
  (documentary)

Cast
  Sean McCarthy



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