As professional baseball looks for new ways to speed up America’s pastime, supporters of the annual 100 Innings of Baseball event are just fine with taking things slow.
For the past two decades, amateur players from around Greater Boston have gathered to play a grueling, two-day, 100-inning game of baseball, raising funds to support ALS research. Founded by Brett Rudy and Mike Lembo, members of the Boston Metro Baseball League, the annual tradition was first held in 2004 and has since raised nearly $1 million for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease) research. Now supporting the Angel Fund, the 20th edition of the game will be held Oct. 7-8 at Adams Field in Quincy. But, before the players hit the field, they’ll need to walk the red carpet.
“The 100th Inning,” a new documentary by Boston-based filmmaker Alex Koppelman, will screen at Cinema Salem in Salem on Wednesday, Oct. 4. (The event is free and open to the public, though donations to support ALS awareness are encouraged.) The film follows players — including Koppelman, who plays in Boston Metro Baseball League and simultaneously made the film during his first 100-inning event — as they gear up for the game, sharing stories of survival, perseverance, and camaraderie along the way.
We caught up with Koppelman to talk about filming (and playing) all 100, the continued support for ALS research by the local baseball community, and more.
How was the experience of playing 100 innings? The next day must’ve been painful.
It’s pretty incredible. You’re staying up for over 30 hours and you’re putting your body through a lot. Just playing baseball as an adult can really take a toll on the body, but then doing that for 100 straight innings, you need days to recover, sleep, and also for your body to function like normal again.
Why do you think the local baseball community has become such supportive champions of the ALS cause over the years?
It’s the strength of the baseball community here that I think is the reason why there’s been such a strong rally against ALS. In addition, it has affected a lot of people who are really close to the game. Walter Bentson is the umpire assignor for the entire Boston Metro Baseball League and has a long history as an umpire for the Cape Cod Baseball League. To see him be diagnosed with ALS and work through it and then every single year see him at the game continuing to fight, being this incredible example of somebody who seems to be preserving through the disease, is also what’s so motivating behind the community here.
There’s a moment in the film where Walter comes out at midnight to umpire for an at-bat, an annual tradition he continues despite his struggles with ALS. What was it like to capture that moment and tell Walter’s story?
That was also the first time that I met Walter. When he came out at midnight to umpire, threw down the cane, and did that, that’s quite a first impression. It’s like, wow, this guy has the best attitude possible. He’s dedicated to really fighting this disease and he’s a symbol of everyone who is doing that. People like Walter Bentson and Richard Kennedy, president of the Angel Fund, they’re fighting for their lives.
From longtime players to in-game proposals between rival Red Sox and Yankees fans, the film features a lot of great stories and people. Do you have a favorite from filming?
I don’t know if I can tell you who my favorite is, but the love story between Angie and Zach is definitely a good one. That’s one of the first things I heard from people who were telling me about the game, that Zach proposed to Angie in 2016. I immediately knew that we had to tell that story because it shows you just how much the game means to people. If you decide to propose to your wife at this game, it has to mean something.
Toward the end of the film, Brett Rudy, cofounder of the event, talks about how he gets inspired to continue the annual event, despite the wear and tear of playing so many innings. Do you plan to get back on the field for another 100 innings game?
Once you play in the 100 innings game and you build those friendships, it’s really hard to say no the next year when it comes around. As Brett points out at the end of the film, you may question whether you want to do those 100 innings again, but when you think about Walter, Rich, and the people who are still fighting for ALS, you say yup, I’m going to do it again. I definitely plan to play in the game again.
100TH INNING MOVIE PREMIERE
Oct. 4, 7 p.m. Cinema Salem, 1 E India Square Mall, Salem. Free, registration required. eventbrite.com.
Interview was edited and condensed.