Friday, July 13, 2012

"Pelotero" documents gromming of baseball players in Dominican Republic

Documentary filmmakers Ross Finkel, Trevor Martin and Jonathan Paley have reported on how Major League Baseball groomed at least two players (Miguel Angel Sano and Jean Carlos Batista) in the Dominican Republic in their film “Ballplayer: Pelotero”, now in theaters from Strand Releasing, with Bobby Valentine (Manager of the Boston Red Sox) as an executive producer.  (There is a story on this by Steve Silva in, link here.)

The major league clubs have facilities – sometimes full “academies” – to train players, who can sign on July 2 of every year at age 16.   Players get the maximum contracts at that age, so MLB goes to great lengths, with background investigations (and medical exams including bone scans) to prove that they are not in fact older.  MLB also checks for performance enhancing drugs – in blood, urine, and even poop.  Some teams are fussier than others on the age issue, and most teams also bring some players from other areas of Latin America (such as Venezuela) to the “academies” in the DR. Twenty percent of all MLB players have spent time in the Dominican Republic; many grew up there.

The players are motivated to get the largest possible bonuses to provide for their families – that means parents and siblings, not their own (future) children.

There’s an early scene where a couple of  (black) players say, “We are smooth, but the Americans aren’t smooth.”  That sounds odd, but later in the film, the camera dawdles on a player’s shaved underarm.

Trevor Martin was present for a Q&A for three shows Friday at the West End Cinema in Washington DC.  The directors spent nine months in the DR making the film.  The country borders Haiti. It was not badly affected by the 2010 earthquake, but it does have a border and “immigration” issue with Haiti.

MLB would not let the filmmakers interview it about the practices.  Many teams (the Twins, the Astros, the Pirates) allowed them to film around the academies, but a few teams (the Yankees and Indians) refused.

The film aired in many festivals, including Miami, Sarasota, Boston and Cleveland. I think it just missed Silverdocs. 

The film is narrated (in English) by John Leguizamo. The Spanish of the players is very difficult to follow (there are subtitles), for viewers used to "Madrid" or "Argentine" Spanish in film. 

The official site link is here

The film can be rented “legally” on YouTube for $6.99.  And, yes, "we" ask viewers to “pay to play”.

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