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Randy Arozarena’s story will become a movie

Rays Tales | A full-length feature film is in the works to capture the Rays outfielder’s journey from Cuba to the majors.
Randy Arozarena points skyward after hitting a solo home run during the first inning of the American League Division Series against the New York Yankees.
Randy Arozarena points skyward after hitting a solo home run during the first inning of the American League Division Series against the New York Yankees. [ DENIS POROY | Special to the Times ]
Published Nov. 6, 2020
Updated Nov. 7, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG — Randy Arozarena’s sudden emergence as a record-smashing, postseason star for the Rays seemed like something out of a movie. Now his story will get the Hollywood treatment.

Wonderfilm Media announced plans for an Arozarena biopic, slated to be filmed after next season and released in theaters in fall 2022 or spring 2023.

The full-length feature will focus on Arozarena’s escape from Cuba and his journey to the major leagues, leading up to his stunning postseason success, said Wonderfilm co-founder Bret Saxon, who framed it as “an amazing story” of “human spirit and how it triumphs.”

Arozarena’s agent, Abel Guerra of the ISE firm, had reached out to Saxon through a mutual friend months ago, pitching the idea of a movie on Arozarena’s experiences. Wonderfilm, which produces mostly feature films and episodic TV, had been looking for a sports-related scripted feature since winning an Emmy for a 2017 Netflix documentary on motocross (Unchained).

Talks heated up as Arozarena did during the postseason — specifically against Saxon’s favorites, the Yankees — and a deal was struck during the World Series.

"We were looking for something that was broader (than an on-field story), that was more about the human aspirational aspect of it,” said Saxon, who will produce the film with Jeff Bowler. “We really liked the story. We’d been talking about it, we’d been talking to writers about it, we’d been doing some internal development trying to figure out what this might look like. And then when he started blowing up in the playoffs, we were like ‘Wow, Abel was right.’ So we were pretty excited about it.”

They have already hired screenwriter Brad Gann, who penned the 2006 Invincible football movie that starred Mark Wahlberg, to write the script. They expect to be shooting after the 2021 season and have started negotiations with Major League Baseball for licensing rights to use Rays uniforms and the like. (So, Mark Ruffalo playing Kevin Cash?)

“We feel like the heart of this movie is his journey, and the people around him, how he was inspiring and helping the family back home,” Saxon said. “But, for sure, some of those big payoff moments are on the field, so there will be plenty of actual baseball in stadiums.”

Guerra said Arozarena was his usual “calm, collected and chill” about the movie deal, though he did ask to have a cameo role, which Saxon said he will get. Arozarena has been much more excited, and preoccupied, with finalizing details for his wedding, slated for Saturday in his adopted hometown of Merida, Mexico.

Arozarena did some autograph/memorabilia signings (joking to Guerra he had chicken dinners and cake to pay for) before heading back to Mexico last Sunday, met Monday with the Merida mayor Renan Barrera Concha (presenting him an autographed ball, bat and cleats) and plans to start training next week, with hopes to head back to Florida for pre-spring workouts. Guerra is also in talks about an animated short film about Arozarena. A boots endorsement deal could be a possibility, as could be the Rays approaching Arozarena about a long-term contract.

The Arozarena movie will be the second featuring the Rays, joining Disney’s 2002 The Rookie about pitcher Jim Morris.

Free agent report

There is broad disparity in Charlie Morton’s ranking among free agents, listed sixth by The Athletic’s Jim Bowden (predicted to get a one-year, $14 million deal), 18th by ESPN (one year, $12 million), 33rd by mlbtraderumors.com (one year, $8 million). Sports Illustrated added him at 16th after his $15 million option was “surprisingly” declined by the Rays and Baseball Prospectus 18th. … Catcher Rene Pinto has been re-signed, and there are talks to bring back some of the Rays' other minor-league free agents, which include pitchers Blake Bivens, Eleardo Cabrera, Jose Disla, Mike Franco, Sam McWilliams, DJ Snelten; outfielders Dylan Cozens, Johnny Davis, Izzy Wilson; infielders Grant Kay, Jermaine Palacios; catcher Zacrey Law. … In addition to Morton, catcher Mike Zunino and reliever Aaron Loup, other free agents who played for the Rays in 2020 include: catcher Kevan Smith; pitchers Oliver Drake. Sean Gilmartin, Andrew Kittredge, Chaz Roe.

Instructional league wrap-up

One positive takeaway from the six-week instructional league camp that just wrapped was infielder Ford Proctor, a 2018 third-round draftee from Rice, working at catcher and also hitting well. He will play both positions next season. … One potential negative was top 2020 draft pick pitcher Nick Bitsko limited mainly to maintenance and strengthening work as he dealt with what was described as arm soreness/fatigue. ... Pitchers Taj Bradley, JJ Goss, Seth Johnson were among those showing good progress from their last game action in 2019.

Rays rumblings

Beyond Tuesday’s expected headline of Kevin Cash winning AL Manager of the Year honors, it will be interesting to see where Brandon Lowe finishes in the AL MVP balloting during awards week. Making the top five (thus fourth or fifth this year) adds $1 million to his 2025-26 options (currently $10.5 and $11.5 million). … As wrong as it seemed for centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier to not make the top three in SABR Defensive Index rankings used this year to determine the Gold Gloves, shortstop Willy Adames finishing 11th was more egregious. Also that the Rays finished fourth for the AL team award won by Cleveland. ... Brett Phillips' hit and the ensuing wildness resulting in the World Series Game 4 walkoff win was voted 2020′s Legendary Moment by fans and an mlb.com panel. ... Right-hander Rodolfo Sanchez , a 20-year-old who was 3-2, 3.41 for short-season Class A Hudson Valley in 2019, went to the Phillies as the player to be named for the August acquisition of reliever Edgar Garcia. … The Rays are owed a second, lesser player in addition to infielder Pedro Martinez from the Cubs for the Aug. 30 trade of Jose Martinez. … Overall minor-league reorganization is not yet finalized yet, but the Rays will lose at least two affiliates, rookie-level Princeton and Hudson Valley, which the Yankees announced Saturday will be their new full-season Class A team, and that the Florida State League will drop from advanced to low Class A. ... Outfielder Mallex Smith, third-best player on the 90-win 2018 Rays by baseball-reference.com WAR, took a minor-league deal with the Mets after a poor 2020 with Seattle. … For sending Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows and pitching prospect Shane Baz to the Rays, the Pirates got 33 starts and a 6-12, 4.92 record from Chris Archer, who missed 2020 with injury, then declined his $11 million option for 2021. … The next roster deadline is Nov. 20, when eligible prospects have to be added to be protected from the Rule 5 draft, with outfielder Josh Lowe and infielder Taylor Walls most likely, though only one spot is currently open. … Baseball America’s ranking of Rays' top 10 prospects, in order: Wander Franco, INF; Arozarena; Vidal Brujan, INF; Shane McClanahan, LHP; Baz; Brendan McKay, LHP; Xavier Edwards, INF; Bitsko; Goss; Joe Ryan, RHP. ... Minor-leaguers joining Perth in the Australian league are Proctor; infielder Abiezel Ramirez; outfielders Shane Sasaki, Grant Witherspoon; pitchers Joe LaSorsa, Jacob Lopez, Alan Strong, Nathan Wiles. Infielder Curtis Mead, a native Australian, will play for Adelaide. ... Lefty Anthony Banda, traded Aug. 31, signed a minor-league deal to stay with the Giants.