CAMDEN — For those looking for real stories of hope and transformation in this time of national struggle – led by everyday people – let me recommend Pyne Poynt Baseball, which documents young people in my hometown focused on their own and their community’s transformation, through America’s pastime – baseball.
Okay, I admit it. I was bored of hearing about Bryan Morton and his youth baseball team, which plays and practices next to Heroin Highway, a known for the drug trade here in Camden. There were so many good articles, like this one, and this one, and this one. Baseball became Camden’s anti-story.
But in a city known as one of America’s most dangerous communities, Pyne Poynt tells the story of how play, and how baseball especially, can be an antidote to trauma. The bat and ball can’t make you forget the shooting or death that just happened, but it can bring temporary solace. The stories of despair and hope in Pyne Poynt will hit you like a fast ball into a bare hand.
If you are familiar with the many valuable community projects blooming in our region, it might feel easy to dismiss the work that Bryan Morton has done to get baseball teams into North Camden. Managing teams, money, facilities, parents, and time as working parents themselves was a huge commitment. The other big things happening in the city are mostly supported with paid staff that have paid staff and supported structure.
After hundreds of players coached, dozens of meetings, and purchases of bags and bats, Morton and the team he’s built are such a part of the community that they blend into its fabric. But I implore that you watch this movie. It’s part rally cry for help, part wake up call to reality, part history, part observer of how police work in poor communities, and pure art. The videography is stunning. Filming certainly created some dirty shirts.
In a compelling scene, where Bryan is speaking to coaches and families. He tells them that they need more coaches. He chokes up. He get emotional. There are so many things the welled up tear on his face represents – youth innocence, community involvement, fun on the field, the struggle between drug laden streets and a community of pedestrians that just want to walk home or to work safely.
Director and freelance journalist Steve Patrick Ercolani created a beautiful piece that is about so much more than baseball. Although you see the city raw, there is no perverted reality-gawking cloaked in film. We see young people keeping busy and focused on positive things. It’s about a way that politics and elected leaders can latch on to something that they can actually support with real resources. It’s about the proximity of beauty and ugliness in this special city.
In a city where Hispanics represent 47% of the population, it is good to see them represented on the screen. Too many peace rallies, parades, and political events have an older generation snuggled in their ethnic corners. Not in North Camden. Not on the baseball field. Esto es lo que hace que nuestra ciudad sea grande.
If you want to see the movie, come to Phildelphia on Monday, July 25th 2016 at 7pm. Tickets are $15. You can register for it here.