A Bronx filmmaker hit some record numbers this summer with his new baseball film, ‘Bottom of the 9th.’
Arthur Avenue’s own Robert Bruzio wrote the new film while doing much of the production work on the baseball drama as well.
It stars Joe Manganiello and his wife, ‘Modern Family’ star Sophia Vergara throughout the story of redemption, second chances and baseball, but the movie features another A-lister as well, the Bronx.
His independent project, which popped up to the top sports movie on iTunes in July, follows the story of Sonny Stano, a Bronx baseball prodigy who’s career was cut short after getting in a street fight and doing prison time as a teenager.
After 17-years behind bars, Sonny returns to his home borough where he reunites with his love interest, Angela Ramirez. An opportunity arises where he gets one final crack at a shot in the big leagues by trying out for a New York Yankees affiliate team.
Bruzio’s personally touching plot caught the eye of Manganiello, who said he was deeply affected by the screenplay.
“He had to produce and star in this film, and aided with casting, including the selection of the film’s love interest, Sofia Vergara,” said a representative for the film.
Meanwhile, Bruzio’s interest in writing the film came from his own upbringing on Arthur Avenue. He had witnessed a family member essentially endure the same hardships as Sonny.
“To me it’s a story of second chances and that means a lot to a lot of people,” he said.
“I also wanted to include as much of the Bronx as I could on this, because it’s a borough that’s starting to get a second chance,” Bruzio added, mentioning how much of his Belmont roots are reflected in the film.
He and his fellow producers that previously worked on films in the ‘Rocky’ franchise shot much of ‘Bottom of the 9th,’ on and around Arthur Avenue’s famed ‘Little Italy’.
One spot on the block that they filmed in was Catania’s Pizzeria and Café, a place that Bruzio’s family has owned for some generations back. He recommends the mini calzones, which make a cameo in the film.
In addition to the Arthur Avenue Retail Market and the storefronts in the city’s downtown Little Italy, of course East 161st Street made its way into the film as well.
“Growing up I loved the Yankees so of course they had to put the team in the film,” Bruzio said.
He and the crew decided to film near Stan’s and Billy’s Sports bars in addition to many other notable Bronx bomber spots around River Avenue.
Bottom of the 9th isn’t the only home run that Bruzio has been working on this year, though.
He’s also working on a documentary about the Teitel Brothers’ journey to success as Jewish merchants on Arthur Avenue, so keep an eye out for that.