Monday, November 08, 2010

ESPN 30 for 30: Fernando Nation

At spring training this year, I got my signals crossed and ended up getting Jack, Drew and I to Camelback Ranch about an hour earlier than we normally would have. We sat in the outfield watching batting practice and then wandered the stadium. At the foot of the stairs to the broadcast booths was a large crowd. In the middle of the crowd signing autographs was Fernando Valenzuela. The twenty-seventh film in ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary series is Fernando Nation. It looks at the cultural phenomenon of Fernando Valenzuela.

Jack, Morgan, Sharon and I saw the Dodgers play at Dodger Stadium in Chavez Ravine in 2005. The first part of the film looks at Chavez Ravine's history as a cohesive Mexican-American community. The documentary then shifts to look at Fernando's career and his connection with Los Angeles' large Latino community.

In 1981, Fernando Valenzuela became the only pitcher to win Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Award honors in the same year. He also won the 1981 Silver Slugger award given to the best hitting pitcher. In the 1981 post-season, Valenzuela became the youngest pitcher to start the first game of a series. He went 3-1 in the post-season and helped the Dodgers to their first World Series since 1965. Fernando went on to pitch for the Dodgers for ten seasons and sixteen seasons in the major league.

Fernando was the youngest of twelve children from a very small town in rural Mexico. The old footage of his parents and the town where he grew up are pretty remarkable.

Fernando participated in the documentary and is interviewed throughout. This is a solid film; I would rank it in the top half of the 30 for 30's that I have watched so far.

The film is available on Amazon.

Fernando Nation is also available on iTunes.

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