'Ballplayer: Pelotero' documents hard road of Dominican athletes
A movie review of "Ballplayer: Pelotero," a documentary that offers a starkly unromanticized picture of the life and times of teen athletes from the Dominican Republic who dream of multimillion-dollar signing bonuses and careers in the major leagues.
Special to The Seattle Times
'Ballplayer: Pelotero,' a documentary narrated by John Leguizamo. Directed by Ross Finkel, Jon Paley and Trevor Martin. 77 minutes.
Not rated. In English and Spanish, with English subtitles. Varsity.
In "Ballplayer: Pelotero," it's all about the money.
In the documentary by filmmakers Ross Finkel, Trevor Martin and Jon Paley, it's not love of the game that inspires the teenage prospects from the Dominican Republic who dream of making the jump to the big leagues in the U.S. Rather, it's visions of multimillion-dollar free-agent signing bonuses that motivate them to enter their country's vast network of expert trainers and spend their childhoods sharpening skills on dusty ball fields in hopes of attracting the attention of major-league scouts.
And who can blame them? Overnight, they can leap from hardscrabble poverty to the kind of luxury they avidly read about in local papers that chronicle the careers of Dominican big leaguers who have gone before them. And there have been a lot of those.
As narrator John Leguizamo relates, the small island nation has supplied a disproportionate share of players to the majors — the picture pegs the number at 20 percent — with the likes of Juan Marichal and the Alou brothers prominent among them.
"Ballplayer's" filmmakers follow Miguel Angel Sano and Juan Carlos Batista, two particularly hot prospects from 2009. They were 16 that year, the age Major League Baseball has set as the eligibility threshold for international free-agent signings.
What they want most, they say, is to buy big new homes for their parents and provide a better life for their families. The road to that goal is rough and complicated.
A scout questions whether Sano, a big kid, is really 16. This triggers an intense league investigation, including a bone scan, to determine whether he's misrepresented his age, a major no-no that could drastically reduce his value on the market if proven true.
Full of twists and turns, including use of a spy camera, charges of exploitation of young players and a wrenching betrayal, "Ballplayer" offers a starkly unromanticized picture of the life and times of these particular boys of summer.
Soren Andersen: email@example.com