Cheech shepherds angels in the outfield 

If any of the kids seeing “The Perfect Game,” William Dear’s family-friendly Little League movie opening this weekend, know Cheech Marin, the actor playing kindly Padre Esteban, it will likely be as Felix Gumm from the “Spy Kids” franchise.

Their parents will recall the Don Johnson sidekick in “Nash Bridges” or, more likely, one half of the doobie-brother team of Cheech and Chong.

The latest entry in Marin’s four-decade acting career is based on an unlikely but true story centered around faith and family.

The major plot elements of the film cover familiar ground for him. He was a young ballplayer himself in Granada Hills at the time the boys from Mexico made history in 1957 by becoming the first non-U.S. team to win the Little League World Series.

Marin firmly believes that “faith can move mountains. I think the public in general today is more cynical,” he says, “but many people still believe in the power of faith.”

Referencing “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne, he says, “For me it’s a tuning in — some might call it a state of grace — and being centered. I believe in the power of positive attraction.”

He also understands the strained relationship between the young pitcher and his distant father.

“I grew up with that kind of stern, disciplinarian father who never showed any overt love,” Marin says.

Now on the other side of the generation gap, Marin is amused when reminded of W.C. Fields’ advice to never work with animals or children. “Very smart man,” he says, laughing.

“The majority of them were not professional actors,” Marin says generously of his nine young co-stars. “They had varying degrees of ability to concentrate, so certain days it was like herding cats. They also had to play baseball convincingly, which was new for some of them.”

Now living in Los Angeles with wife Natasha Rubin, Marin misses his San Francisco experience. “Every time I come back, I think if only I could make a living here! It’s such an interesting city because it’s traditional yet is very liberal. It’s a combination you don’t find anywhere else.”

A leading collector of Chicano art, Marin’s holdings have fueled major touring shows. “Previously, this work was viewed simply as agitprop folk art. My goal was to let it be seen by a wider audience,” he says.

He’s working on a new exhibition called “Chicanitas,” with the largest piece being only 12-by-12 inches. “It’s kind of a metaphor for the reduced circumstances of the times — that it’s not the size that matters, it’s the art that matters,” Marin says.

The Perfect Game

Starring Clifton Collins Jr., Cheech Marin, Moises Arias, Jake T. Austin
Written by William Dear
Directed by W. William Winokur
Rated PG
Running time 1 hour 53 minutes

About The Author

Robert Sokol

Robert Sokol

Robert Sokol is the editor at BAYSTAGES, the creative director at VIA MEDIA, and a lifelong arts supporter. Diva wrangler, cinefiler, and occasional saloon singer, he has been touching showbiz all his life. (So far no restraining orders have been issued!)... more
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