I saw the documentary that I learned about here at TT, Pelotero: Ballplayer, yesterday at St. Anthony Main and can recommend it highly to all Twins fans. It tells an eye-opening baseball story about an interesting place that was unfamiliar to me, the Dominican Republic.
The film follows two young Dominican ballplayers in 2009 who are trying to land the big bonuses given to top prospects on the first eligible signing day (July 2) after their 16th birthdays.
Miguel Sano, present-day Beloit Snapper, is the "can’t miss" future star; the other boy is a less certain prospect. Both were groomed for years at camps in the DR run by men who become de-facto fathers to the kids, and who make their money by receiving a percentage of their signing bonuses.
The tension is between the teams in the MLB "monopoly" and the boys who might be trying to game the system by changing their ages or even their identities to maximize their bonuses.
The filming is gorgeous. The editing is very well done, fair and spare. The people in the documentary are wonderfully candid.
We get to see a lot of Miguel Sano and his family. He’s an adorable, goofy kid with the nickname "Bocaton," which means big-mouth.
It seems everything in Sano's possession has an MLB team logo on it, from his clothes to his cell phone. I remember spotting the Cardinals, the A’s, the Pirates, the Mets, and of course the Twins. Were those things given to him?
Sano – and the other kid, Jean Carlos Batista, now in the Astros' system – start the film with the highest of hopes. We then see them put up with all sorts of probing, prodding, trickery and uncertainty before they finally cut their hard-negotiated deals.
During the course of the film Sano moves from a poor brick shack to a decent house (thanks to his agent), and then, finally, when he scores his $3.15 million bonus, to a large house with a pool.
At the end, we see young Sano driving a handsome car and learning English. I found it hard not to be extremely happy for the kid and impossible not to wish the best for him - and for us.