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Arts & Entertainment

Curve Ball: Local Shorts Highlight Diverse USA Film Festival Slate

A college freshman spotlights his high school pitching coach’s unique baseball story in his filmmaking debut.
Brian Holman flirted with baseball immortality on April 20, 1990. John Benjamin Terrell

Given his experience in the major leagues, Brian Holman made the ideal coach for teenage pitcher John Benjamin Terrell.

However, when Terrell left the baseball diamond to pursue his other passion as a filmmaker, Holman also proved to be an ideal collaborator. Terrell’s debut short film, a documentary about Holman called Almost Perfect: The 99th Pitch, will screen this weekend as part of the annual USA Film Festival at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas.

“I had always had a documentary in mind for him,” Terrell said. “His story isn’t as well-known as I think it should be.”

Holman is a right-hander who pitched for multiple MLB teams between 1988 and 1991. His brush with fame came in April 1990, when he pitched for the Seattle Mariners in Oakland, California. That night, he retired the first 26 hitters he faced—one out short of a perfect game—before surrendering a home run to pinch-hitting slugger Ken Phelps.

The 16-minute documentary revisits that game as well as other aspects of Holman’s life and career. After retiring from baseball, Holman moved to Fort Worth, where he continues to work as a private pitching instructor.

That’s how he met Terrell, who pitched at Byron Nelson High School in Trophy Club. After graduation, Terrell enrolled at Biola University in Los Angeles — where Holman’s son played baseball and studied film about a decade ago.

Terrell doesn’t play baseball anymore but he’s a freshman film student, and for his first class project, he reached out to Holman again.

“He was very receptive,” Terrell said. “I decided to take this one night and go through the emotions of that game.”

For his assignment, Terrell had just six weeks to finish the film, which included interviewing Holman, shooting additional footage, and editing.

The local screening, which Terrell and Holman will attend, is one of five showings at festivals around the country this month. Terrell hopes the project will jumpstart his directing career and help validate his decision to give up athletics for art.

“I had to pick one,” he said. “That makes this documentary personal to me. It’s the passing of the torch for the passions in my life.”

Almost Perfect will screen as part of the festival’s Texas Short Program competition on Sunday. The six-day event — which includes several free screenings — starts on Wednesday. Highlights of the lineup include:

  • Short films from a handful of Dallas-based filmmakers including Joe Scott, Hannah Abu-eideh, and Tim Yager and Alyssa Udovitsch (7 p.m. Sunday)
  • A tribute to legendary actor Martin Sheen that includes a screening of the 1973 film Badlands and a Q&A retrospective led by actor and Dallas native Stephen Tobolowsky (7 p.m. Saturday)
  • An advance screening of summer theatrical release Possum Trot, a true-life drama about an East Texas church that changed the lives of foster children (7 p.m. Sunday)
  • Tributes to screenwriter Dean Pitchford (Footloose) and actor Billy Dee Williams (Lady Sings the Blues) with repertory screenings and Q&A sessions


Todd Jorgenson

Todd Jorgenson