‘Little Big League’ star returns to Twins 20 years later

MINNEAPOLIS — When Luke Edwards landed in Minneapolis on Friday, a noticeable piece of the city’s skyline was missing from the time he last visited.

The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, where Edwards spent nearly three months of his summer in 1993 as the character Billy Heywood in "Little Big League," is no more. Gone is the former home of the Minnesota Twins with the distinguishable Teflon roof, where the 1994 film took place. The Dome has since been torn down to make way for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium.

Edwards was back in town this weekend — at Target Field, not the Metrodome — to celebrate the 20th anniversary of "Little Big League," a story about a fictional Twins team led by 12-year old Heywood as the owner/manager. It was a film that still resonates with baseball fans today, especially in the state of Minnesota.

"It’s a little strange, a little surreal to be back here. Things have changed a lot since 20 years ago," said Edwards, now 34. "It feels like longer for me, honestly. I was a kid. I was just a completely different person in that era. But it’s amazing to be back here. I love Minnesota."

The Twins will host Little Big League Day on Sunday. Edwards will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Minnesota’s game against the Chicago White Sox, and the movie will be played on the video boards at Target Field following the conclusion of the game. Former Twins radio broadcaster John Gordon, who played play-by-play announcer Wally Holland in the film, will also be returning to Minnesota.

Joining Edwards in the festivities will be Ryan Lueschen, a 14-year-old from Lakeville, Minn. Lueschen was born with a rare heart condition and had four heart surgeries before he turned 6. Through the Ronald McDonald House, Lueschen was selected to be the honorary manager for Sunday’s game. He and Edwards got a tour of the Twins clubhouse Saturday, and Sunday Lueschen will bring the lineup card out to the home plate umpire before the game.

"This is awesome. I said before, not a lot of people get this opportunity to see the clubhouse and the locker room and meet players," Lueschen said. "It’s kind of my dream."

It was a dream for Edwards to star in a major motion picture at the age of 13, acting alongside then-major leaguers Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson and Ivan Rodriguez, among others. Edwards admits he wasn’t as big of a sports fan before landing the role of Heywood, but he soon grew to love the game of baseball.

Since his father grew up rooting for San Francisco, that was the first baseball team Edwards followed. But he also keeps tabs on the Twins after playing the role of their preteen manager.

Actor Luke Edwards (left), who starred in the movie "Little Big League" 20 years ago, speaks with Twins clubhouse attendant Wayne Hattaway.

"I can’t help but follow them," Edwards said of the Twins. "My dad is a big Giants fan, so I kind of inherit all my sports allegiances from my dad. But the Twins are definitely No. 2."

Edwards had a hard time listing a favorite scene from the film that is full with plenty of memorable ones. There was the scene that several Twins players referenced, when Heywood and his players dropped water balloons from the team’s hotel room on a road trip. One of the memorable baseball moments was when Minnesota used a trick play to get Griffey out on the bases. And then, of course, there was the moment late in the game when (spoiler alert) Griffey robs a potential home run to end the Twins’ season, much to the dismay of the home fans.

The only scene where the entire Metrodome was packed, Edwards said, was the finale of that last game. After the Twins lost to Griffey’s Mariners, the fans chanted Heywood’s name. He then came out to take his curtain call by sticking his Twins hat high in the air.

"We did it before a game on fan appreciation night," said Edwards, who now owns his own production company. "They filled the place and they told everybody, ‘Hey, we’re going to do a thing here. We need you guys to cheer really loud.’ I was extremely nervous, and we had to do it a couple times. But all the other sequences, it was faked. Smoke and mirrors."

For many reasons, "Little Big League" has stood the test of time, as evidenced by the Twins honoring it this weekend. Edwards believes the movie’s attention to realism from a baseball standpoint was a big draw for many moviegoers.

As Edwards stood in the dugout before Saturday’s game, several current Twins players came up and talked to him. That included Chris Colabello, who shares the same No. 20 on his jersey as Heywood. Colabello was 10 when the movie came out, so he was more than excited to meet Edwards.

"It’s really surreal. It makes me feel old," Edwards said. "I’m so stoked that people watch it and still enjoy it. It’s very strange to me."

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