Coming to theatres and VOD this Friday, July 13: BALLPLAYER: PELOTERO
Ross Finkel, Trevor Martin, and Jonathan Paley’s exploration of Dominican baseball dreams had its world premiere at last year’s Hamptons. Its gone on to screen in Miami, Cleveland, Sarasota, and the IFF Boston, among others.
Despite being approximately the size of South Carolina, the Dominican Republic leads Major League Baseball as the source of more foreign-born players than any other country, accounting for 11% of the overall rosters, and 39% of those foreign-born according to most recent statistics. This is no accident – MLB has invested heavily in the island, setting up a training and recruitment program to try to identify the most promising players for a career in the big leagues. For the best players, this career begins annually on July 2nd, when pro contracts are offered, provided the athletes are great and show potential to become exceptional, are a minimum of 16 years old, and, as demonstrated in Finkel, Martin, and Paley’s film, figure out a way to work within the flawed and sometimes even outright corrupt system. The doc focuses on two hopefuls, Miguel Angel, a talented shortstop whose age and identity are called into question; and Jean Carlos, a cocky player whose expectations of instant millionaire status face a stark reality check; as well as their coaches, who train their charges for an expected, and lucrative, commission – their financial future intertwined with the young men for good or bad. A doc on baseball, and, more specifically, the politics of MLB recruitment and contracts, is not something I’d typically ever be drawn to – beyond my general disinterest in sports docs, I find baseball to be excruciatingly boring – but, thankfully, this is no straightforward baseball doc. The characters are the key, with a clear sense provided of what (economic) success in the sport means for their families’ and their own futures, while the backroom negotiations offer a sobering look into yet another example of economic exploitation of another culture to the benefit of a superior power.