Movie Preview: Rickey Hill Is True Life Baseball Inspiration

The Hill movie poster, baseball

By Randal C. Hill 

It’s hard to dream of becoming a professional baseball player when you can barely walk, but that didn’t stop Rickey Hill.  

The true-life sports drama “The Hill” was written by Angelo Pizzo, who penned the script for “Hoosiers,” the basketball film that USA Today calls the greatest sports film of all time and directed by Jeff Celentano. “I set out to make an iconic film,” says Celentano. “A beautiful, sweeping and powerful inspirational story.” 

Rickey Hill (Jesse Berry as young Rickey, and Colin Ford as a teen) grew up dirt-poor in a small Texas town in the 1970s, and from the time he was four years old, Rickey’s older brother pitched rocks that Rickey batted with a stick. (The family budget wouldn’t stretch to a store-bought bat and ball). He could hit better than anyone his age, but Rickey was burdened by the clunky leg braces he wore due to a degenerative spinal disease. His high-flown goal of becoming a baseball phenomenon appeared to be impossible. 

His pastor father (Dennis Quaid) hoped his son will follow him into the ministry. Rickey’s career goal, though, is to be the best hitter in pro baseball. “You can’t play baseball!” bellows his father. “You’re gonna get ridiculed and wind up with an injury that you’ll never get over!”    

By high school, the hard work pays off when Hill is able to cast off the cumbersome steel braces. As before, none of his peers can match his prodigious batting skills.  

At age 18, he has a chance to try out for a major league team, but the opportunity divides his family. His father proclaims that only a miracle could bring Rickey the life he dreams of, but Rickey’s mother (Joelle Carter) explodes, “He’s special! They said he’d never walk and he ran! How many miracles do you need?” 

The Briarcliff Entertainment release premieres August 25.