The best domestic documentary this year tells a story about baseball.

The best domestic documentary this year tells a story about baseball.

Wen | Ai Jiangtao

A few days ago, when I saw this film in the cinema, I didn’t see it as a documentary at first. After watching it for more than ten minutes, I realized that it was a documentary. After watching it, I found it was like a feature film. Director Xu Huijing’s later explanation relieved me: "I’ve always wanted to shoot a documentary in the form of a feature film." Different from the traditional documentary style, the director adopts multi-camera mode and tries to tell a more three-dimensional story-Under the leadership of Sun Lingfeng, the captain of the former Chinese baseball team and the founder of the strong baseball base, a group of unfortunate children from marginal broken families all over the country went to the United States to participate in the competition through training and changed their lives little by little.

Unlike many sports movies, the core of this story, as Sun Lingfeng said,Not that they chose baseball, but that baseball chose them.Sun Lingfeng told me that after being the captain of the Chinese baseball team for 15 years and the coach of the Jiangsu baseball team for a while, he had reached the ceiling in his original position and wanted to do something really valuable, cultivate children according to his own set of ideas and change the baseball ecology that few people in China care about. The criteria for his selection of players are simple and peculiar: 1. Being poor enough; 2. Good health; 3. There is no hereditary disease in the family.

The tension of the film comes from the contrast, on the one hand, children from poor families, and on the other hand, baseball, which has always been regarded as a middle-class sport. For these children, everything is lucky enough and strange enough.

In October 2017, when this documentary entered the filming, the strong base was established for more than two years. At the beginning of the film, the 10-year-old Xiao Shuang followed Erbo to his father’s grave, and they walked on the country road. Erbo told him to practice with the coach and never come back when he went out. Xiaoshuang came from rural Hebei. His father died of illness before he was born, and his mother chose to leave home when he was a few months old. Xiao Shuang was supposed to be given away, but people thought he was too thin and chose his brother. The small pair in the camera is quiet and restrained, and cries easily. Xu Huijing soon noticed this sad-looking child. When everyone was fighting, he was quietly playing with a little dinosaur in the corner.

Another protagonist of the film was careless. He was 11 years old when he started shooting. Just two days after he entered the base, he turned the place upside down. Like Xiao Shuang, Xiao Shuang doesn’t have a complete home. His father works outside all the year round. When he was a few months old, his mother left home after a fight with his father. But what he showed was recklessness and bravado: he didn’t wait in line for dinner, teased other players with somersaults, couldn’t walk in line, liked to show off how strong he was and how to scare off older children with a knife. The sloppy appearance made Xu Huijing a little excited. He felt that this story had become a protagonist who could string together other characters.

In this way, these children from troubled families met baseball. The daily training of the team is mainly handled by Sun Lingfeng’s master Zhang Jinxin. The boy’s "master", who was almost 70 years old at that time, was a legendary baseball coach in China. He was the president of Fengtai baseball school. He has been engaged in baseball training for more than 40 years and led the China junior baseball team to win four world championships. More than half of the players of China baseball national team have been trained by him. Teacher Guo Zhongjian is responsible for children’s study and daily management. Guo Zhongjian graduated from the Department of Civil Engineering of Tsinghua University. He was the president of Tsinghua University Baseball and Softball Association and was a volunteer at the base. In Xu Huijing’s words,These three men, touts are like grandfathers, Sun Lingfeng is like fathers, and Guo Zhongjian is more like mothers.

The rules of the baseball game are very trivial, and the technical and tactical requirements are also high. At the baseball base, it took Mr. Chloe Wang half an hour to let me understand the rules of the game roughly. To put it simply, the baseball game is divided into nine innings, with nine players on each side. In the game, nine members of the defense team played together, with the pitcher pitching at the pitcher’s mound, while the other members were scattered at home plate, first base, second base and third base for defense; The attacker sends one batter at a time to hit the pitcher’s ball at home plate. After hitting the ball, he should quickly run to other bases. If the defender steps on the base mat before passing the ball to the base, he will successfully get on the base, otherwise he will be out.

If he hits a good ball called a "home run", the defender can run back to home from first base and score a point without any time to pass it back. On the other hand, if you miss the pitcher’s good shot three times in a row, you will be killed and sent to other batters. After all nine players are killed, you will switch between attack and defense. For the defensive side, how to run and pass flexibly on the field according to the pitching characteristics and hitting effect to prevent the offensive players from getting on the base is a great test of the tactical level and cooperation consciousness of the players.

After a brief understanding of the rules of the game, it suddenly occurred to me that if there were no division of bats and bases, baseball would be a bit like running circles that we used to play when we were children. Similarly, many people had to run into the circle to attack and defend, and if they were caught halfway, they would be sent off directly. This makes me instinctively have a good impression on baseball. I don’t know how these children feel when they first come into contact with baseball, but obviously, they have enough things to face besides training.

Xu Huijing filmed for half a month at a time, and came back and forth for more than ten times, silently recording everything that happened here, and began to enter the inner world of children little by little.When he first arrived at the base, careless ate a lot every time he ate, until he couldn’t eat any more, and sometimes even vomited himself, which was of course related to his frequent hunger before. He looks tough and sloppy, but he is also very afraid of the dark. Because he can’t get along well with other partners, everyone doesn’t want to sleep with him, so he has to beg from the coach one by one. When sleeping, he often ties a safety rope to the bedside to fix himself and the bedside. When other players go outside to participate in the competition, they will stick to the sloppy base and sing songs that miss their mother in the night.

Xiao Shuang, who usually withers, is often said by touts that he lacks domineering and is too conservative. But when careless made fun of his father, he jumped up and had a fight with careless.For Xiao Shuang and careless, their imaginary parents may be the greatest comfort when they face all difficulties, because they have never met each other, and they can imagine their parents over and over again.Just like the little boy in "Summer of Kijiro", his mother originally existed only in imagination, but once he stumbled upon his mother’s photo and address, he couldn’t help but set foot on the road of looking for it. However, it may not be a bad thing for him not to find his mother. At least he can think about his mother again and again according to his own wishes.
Favourite has a good way of training children. For a naughty boy like careless, he let him make trouble for the first week and ignored him at all. A week later, he began to tighten the reins by staring at a small thing until he corrected it. During the filming of the documentary, Xu Huijing’s children just went to kindergarten. He applied this method to children and found it very effective. At the base, the tout told me that the children he trained in those years were all carefully selected young seeds. Now these children are more like shoveling and leading them, being more patient and understanding their hearts.

In the film, a scene is impressive. At one end of the training ground, the master kept cheering for everyone, encouraging everyone to be a wolf on the field. The camera at the other end of the training ground was careless and even the formation was not neat. He said to the camera with tears in his eyes: I am a stray dog!

After training for a while, the children can finally go to the United States to compete. The children who really came into contact with baseball culture for the first time were very excited. In the arena of Major League Baseball, in the face of a sudden heavy rain, careless turned himself into an inflatable muscular man with a raincoat and had a great time. In the official competition, due to the overage of the captains Dabao, Mahua and several other players, Xiao Shuang, whose arm was injured, became the absolute main force of the team. In the match with the previous U10 champion Chicago team, the children tried their best and lost the game.

After the game, Xiao Shuang even sat on the sidelines sobbing because of one of his pitching mistakes. He cried and said, "You know how hard it is to come here to participate in a competition with so many people helping us!" Usually naughty sloppy at this time also ran to comfort Xiao Shuang. At this time, they have become a real team. Xiaoshuang also learned to take responsibility at that moment.

However, after returning from the American competition, Xiao Shuang ran home. Sun Lingfeng personally drove home to pick him up, and he didn’t want to go back. For this reason, he also got angry with Erbo, who lived alone: You just want to throw me away! At the end of the film, Xiao Shuang ran to a big pine tree on the hillside at the entrance of the village. A person kept inserting pine leaves into the thick branches of the pine tree and chatted with Erbo sitting on the hillside without a word.

"great! The post-editing of "Teenager" has gone through a long time of more than a year. Xu Huijing found that he actually didn’t know enough about children, such as why Xiaoshuang ran home from the base and stopped his promising future. During the epidemic, Xu Huijing, who seldom takes her children, had more time to get along with her children. Slowly, the children allowed themselves to help him bathe, take him to school, and show him the way to school. The emotional connection between father and son became closer and closer. It was then that he understood that whether it was Xiao Shuang or sloppy, or the older captain Dabao and the youngest player Li Haixin,For these children from marginal families, what they lack most is a sense of security."Xiao Shuang is at Erbo’s house. At least he can shout at Erbo when he is angry, but at the base, when the coach says him, he can only listen."

When suffering meets baseball, it is not so much that baseball has changed them, but that kind of collective and regular training life makes these children who are extremely lacking in love feel vaguely at home.As Sun Lingfeng said in the film,Baseball is a home-going sport, because home plate is called home, and you can only score if you run back to home.Children are getting used to change, although they still can’t help but look back from time to time.

Like many people, I asked Sun Lingfeng why he chose such a group of children. His answer is frank and direct: it is not entirely for charity or public welfare, but pure. These children, like white paper, have less attachments and fetters, and can run through his training concept more systematically.

In his words, these children from U8 to U15 are all treasures after training here for more than three years. In the future, whether they enter professional teams or become coaches, they will be sown like seeds.For these children, baseball, like reading, doing business and learning technology, will become a brand-new way to change their destiny.Sun Lingfeng’s plan is quite ambitious. He hopes to go through the whole chain of talent output, team output, venue construction and event formation through the strong angel baseball training base.

Today, the base in Tongzhou is the fourth home of the powerful angel. On this 200-acre land, there are neat living areas, training areas and even vegetable fields. The base now has 68 players. Last year, it accepted 18 poor Yi children from Daliangshan, Sichuan, and set up a women’s baseball team composed of Yi girls. At the base, every child is very polite and greets people outside. After lunch, the children cleaned in groups in the canteen before leaving.
Sloppy skateboarding, jumping all the way to show us the vegetable fields. In front of him, he is obviously tall and thin. "Can you not be thin? We have to run 20 kilometers every day! " Thankfully, a few months ago, Xiao Shuang also returned to the base to join the training. He looks more confident and cheerful, like all children who love to play, riding a small bike and wandering around.

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