The Comrades of Summer (1992 TV Movie)
To teach a team of Russian wanna-be baseball players the finer points of the all-American game is no easy task, but for a grudgingly resentful, recently fired baseball manager from the States, the task is formidable. In fact, there are many times when he considers chucking the whole thing and going back home and forgetting baseball entirely. But he perseveres... to the point where he finally believes that his players may be good enough to represent the Soviet Union in the upcoming Olympics in America. However, performing in this Country under such pressures not only shows these Russian players something about themselves, it also makes their American manager aware of something rather special about himself, as well.
- Sparky Smith (Joe Mantegna) is the would be player manager of the Seattle Mariners, the culmination of a long and successful career. He is living during the death rattle of the baseball player as superstar era.
America was growing tired of the egos, the salaries, the strikes. Sparky represents the worst of this group, with an ego the size of all outdoors, he mimics the perceived attitude of players like George Brett, and Reggie Jackson. The criticism of guys like Sparky is that they forgot that baseball is only a game. Unlike football, it's supposed to be relaxed and fun.
Sparky injures himself while filming a commercial he was trying to squeeze in between games, effectively ending his career.
Crying to his agent about his bad luck, and begging for another chance, Sparky books a gig in Russia, managing the first Russian Olympic Baseball Team.
He has an attractive tour guide/ spy Nadya (Netalya Negoda)who follows him around, and is a bit ambiguous about her job.
His hotel room is tiny, everything is broken. The practice field is some old army base and a mess. The players are all hockey players and have hockey gear. His assistant studied baseball in Cuba and keeps referring to a sage named Manuel (this turns out to be a baseball manual).
In his free time he walks the streets of Moscow with Nadya. He meets her impoverished family, and waits in line with her for toilet paper. This moves Sparky, and he begins to use baseball as a way to improve the lives of those around him.
Nadya introduces him to a Russian street hustler, and Sparky begins to trade American liquor and other trinkets for bats, gloves, uniforms and other things the team needs.
Eventually he even brings the players' mothers to a game to make them play better.
The team never gets to play in the Olympics due to some political issues beyond any of the character's control, but they all gain from the experience of the game, and Sparky's heart is redeemed.