The 2012 72-min documentary Ballplayer: Pelotero, directed by Guagua Productions (Ross Finkel, Trevor Martin & Jon Paley) and narrated by John Leguizamo, is set in the Dominican Republican, where some kids begin baseball training at a young age, in hopes that they make it to the big leagues and aid their families back home, where poverty is commonplace.
A 2012 S&A year-end highlight, the feature doc is a revealing portrait of a side to the business of baseball that may seem like relatively inconsequential business as usual for the average fan here in the USA, but is a matter or survival for those really young men (16-year-olds) who dream of multi-million dollar signing bonuses that will relieve them of the poverty they and their families live in.
While riveting to watch, as the mystery surrounding each young player's (or pelotero's) Major League Baseball prospects unfold, it's actually quite sad and even enraging to see what plays out like a form of modern day slavery, as this peloteros are essentially treated like merchandise - product to be bought and sold, without having much of a say (given their age and psychological development) as to what path their lives will take; all the adults around them want something from these kids - from their local trainers (some of them becoming ersatz fathers to these young men, teaching them not only about the game, but about life), to the MLB scouts, the MLB itself (a monopoly referred to as a "mafia" by a family member of one of the 2 star prospects followed in this film), to (unfortunately) even their family members.
I can't even begin to fathom the pressure and the kind of burden this must be for a 16-year old to carry.The filmmakers of that documentary are already at work on a follow-up project, which will follow one of the kids featured in the first film - 16-year-old prospect Miguel Sano (above) who went on to sign a $3.15 million contract with the Minnesota Twins.
But Miguel’s dreams didn’t stop there, and neither did ours. For the past three years we have been filming a sequel about Miguel’s road to the Bigs, and have learned that getting signed can be the easiest part for young, elite Dominican players. Hours of footage show Sano grappling with the crushing pressure that comes with his preternatural talent. He faces a jarring acculturation to American life, a painful separation from his family and must navigate an increasingly complex web of professional entanglements that forces him to consider who his friends really are. We will tell, for the first time ever on film, the full and complete story of a major sports star’s rise from anonymity to superstardom.