The Art of Fielding, Chad Harbach’s 2011 novel about a brilliant defensive shortstop whose skills leave him after an errant throw hits a teammate in the head, was a literary sensation upon its release in September of that year. The book was a New York Times bestseller, made several best novels of the year lists (Amazon named it the top novel of 2011), and was in the running for many literary awards.
(Harbach’s novel was also a popular book club pick well into 2012. It might be the one baseball book your mother wanted to talk to you about.)
Considered one of the best baseball books of recent years, The Art of Fielding is now being adapted into a feature film with two powerful forces behind it. Talent agency IMG and production company Mandalay Sports Media are partnering up to develop and finance the film, the first of several sports-themed projects that the partnership aims to make over the next few years.
Mandalay Sports Media is a prominent name in sports-related documentaries and scripted content. Co-chairman Mike Tollin was an executive producer on several of ESPN’s “30 for 30” films, notably Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL? and Jordan Rides the Bus, and was a consulting producer on virtually every one of the original 30 documentaries of the series. He also executive-produced HBO’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar documentary in addition to sports docu-series such as Showtime’s The Franchise and NFL Network’s Undrafted. On the scripted TV side, Tollin has produced several shows, such as Smallville, One Tree Hill, Yahoo’s Sin City Saints and ESPN’s miniseries The Bronx is Burning.
The company is also a producer on the upcoming biopic of boxer Chuck Wepner, titled Chuck, which will be released in theaters on May 5.
IMG has been increasing its role in producing original sports-themed content. Among its most recent projects have been Gleason, the documentary about NFL player Steve Gleason, HBO’s recent series about the UConn women’s basketball team, and The Tony Kornheiser Podcast.
“The Art of Fielding is one of my all-time favorite books, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be making this film with our partners at IMG,” Tollin said in an official statement. “We’re thrilled to have financing in place for the slate so we can choose projects based on what we love, rather than what we think we can sell.”
The movie adaptation will be directed by Craig Johnson (Wilson, The Skeleton Twins) from a script by Trapper Clancy. The novel depicts the story of Henry Srkimshander, a slight shortstop for Westish College who appears destined for a major league career. Henry is on the verge of breaking a NCAA record for consecutive errorless games when an errant throw hits a teammate in the dugout, a blow to the head which sends him to the hospital. The story follows five characters affected by the incident as the baseball season moves toward the final game of the season.