IN THE FIELD : It's Authentic (Better Not Say Real Deal) 'Little Big League'

In his University of Virginia days, long before he and his friends started up the super-successful Castle Rock Entertainment, Andrew Scheinman played on the varsity tennis team and hung out with jocks. Sports is a world he knows--and movies purporting to reflect it often don't, he claims.

"People don't look like athletes, strategy is often faulty, expressions are tossed out that aren't really used," Scheinman observes. "Ron Shelton's 'Bull Durham' was one of the few that felt real--except for a scene in which (pitcher) Tim Robbins hit the mascot with a pitch. That would never really happen."

In "Little Big League," Scheinman's directorial debut scheduled for release June 29, a 12-year-old (Luke Edwards) inherits the Minnesota Twins from his grandfather (Jason Robards) and names himself manager. The premise may be fanciful, Scheinman says, but the details are not.

The director recruited more than a dozen major league players to make cameo appearances. Among them: pitcher Randy Johnson and outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. of the Seattle Mariners, second baseman Carlos Baerga and catcher Sandy Alomar of the Cleveland Indians, outfielder Paul O'Neill of the New York Yankees and first baseman Rafael Palmeiro of the Baltimore Orioles.

When it came to casting actors, Scheinman opted for athletic prowess over star power. "Thirtysomething's" Timothy Busfield, who once set his sights on a baseball career, still pitches in a semipro league in Sacramento. Jonathan Silverman ("Weekend at Bernie's") was suggested by Billy Crystal, with whom he plays in the annual celebrity game at Dodger Stadium. Two actors with major league experience--ex-Met shortstop Kevin Elster and former Reds pitcher Brad Lesley--joined former Cub all-star Leon (Bull) Durham as cast members and full-time technical advisers.

"It was a great luxury being able to ask an actor to hit a line drive down third and have him actually be able to do it," says Scheinman.

Sources report that the $20 million "Little Big League" has tested as well as any other Castle Rock hit, including "A Few Good Men" and "City Slickers"--good news in light of the fact that the movie was regarded by some as a "vanity project"--awarded to Scheinman because of his Castle Rock position.

"You could say I was between a rock and a hard place," Scheinman concedes. "But my partners--and they're the only ones whose opinions I care about--know this isn't new territory for me. I'm doing the same things I've been doing: cutting pictures, working on scripts. Now that it's my film, of course, it ups the ante. It's a lot more fun . . . but the choices--and the responsibility--are mine."

Scheinman dismisses any suggestion of competition between him and Castle Rock partner/director Rob Reiner, whose family film "North" opens less than a month later.

Of more concern, he says, is Caravan Pictures' rival baseball movie "Angels in the Outfield," scheduled for release July 13.

Caravan chief Joe Roth, however, believes there's room for them both. "People like to go back to subjects that are familiar . . . as long as there's a twist," he says. "Baseball films were once considered box-office poison, but, as a producer and (former) studio chief, I've been involved with four--all of them hits. "*

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