Ballplayer: Pelotero

Ballplayer: Pelotero

Miguel Angel Sano as seen in BALLPLAYER: PELOTERO, a film by Ross Finkel, Jon Paley and Trevor Martin. Picture courtesy Strand Releasing. All rights reserved.

Ballplayer: Pelotero

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Ballplayer: Pelotero (2011/2012)

Opened: 07/13/2012 Limited

Limited07/13/2012
Quad Cinema/NYC07/13/2012 - 07/26/201214 days
Music Hall 307/13/2012 - 07/19/20127 days
DVD09/04/2012

Trailer: Click for trailer

Websites: Home, Twitter, Facebook

Genre: US/Dominican Republic Sports Documentary (English and Spanish w/English subtitles)

Rated: Unrated

Synopsis

This compelling documentary narrated by John Leguizamo is a gritty and never before seen look inside the world of professional baseball training camps in the Dominican Republic. Miguel Angel and Jean Carlos are two of the top prospects at a training camp, and they are both about to turn 16, which means they can be signed to a farm team and ultimately move up to the big leagues. Filmmakers Ross Finkel, Trevor Martin and Jonathan Paley take you inside this never before seen world for an up close and personal look at the cost of the American dream.

Official Selection

  • Hamptons International Film Festival
  • Santa Barbara International Film Festival
  • Miami International Film Festival
  • Cleveland Film Festival
  • Portland International Film Festival

Director's Statement

The central question behind Pelotero was a simple one: Why are Dominicans so good at baseball? The tiny island nation is consistently overrepresented in the big leagues, and as America's pastime continues to globalize, every year brings a fresh crop of young Dominican Peloteros to the top levels of the game. We had a romantic image of these players' humble beginnings etched in our minds; poor kids chasing rolled up socks through dusty streets as motorbikes whizzed by. However, that vision of street ball felt disconnected to another romantic idea of Dominican baseball; Big Papi, Sammy Sosa, or Robinson Cano slowly trotting around the bases under the bright lights and cheering fans of a big league ballpark. How does one lead to the other? And what is the story in between the two?

When an opportunity arose to secure some grant money in college to produce a documentary, we decided to travel to the Dominican Republic and do our best to connect the dots. That research trip allowed us to survey the country, build relationships and get a feel for what was really going on. More importantly though, we left the island infected with the spirit, passion, and zealousness of Dominican baseball.

When we came back a year later, this time for the long haul, we discovered that our simple question had a very complex answer -- one that had more to do with the hallways of big league offices than with any dusty street. Where we had expected to find the "Wild West of Baseball" that we had read so much about, we instead discovered a highly nuanced system struggling with its own identity.

The Dominican system is one of stark contradictions. It's institutionalized yet independent. A free market, yet frequently manipulated. It is a system where integrity and corruption are interchangeable tactics in the pursuit of the countries top players. Indeed, the forces that make Dominican players so successful are the same forces that make the Dominican system so dangerous for professional baseball. Most importantly, for all these reasons, or perhaps in spite of them, the Dominican system is extremely effective.

Pelotero sheds light on some of the most pressing issues regarding the export of Dominican baseball players to the US: age and identity fraud, exploitation, and the opaque role professional baseball plays in determining the fates of young players and their families. However, at heart, the film is a story about two gifted young men with a shared dream, doing their best to navigate a mercenary world with the hopes, fears and burdens of their entire families riding on their success or failure.

-- Ross Finkel, Trevor Martin and Jon Paley

Cast Info

Miguel Angel Sano

15, is a young shortstop heralded by some as the future of Dominican baseball; once-in-a generation talent, and a shoe-in for big league greatness. Others whisper that his outsized skills aren't credible for a player of his age; that like many other bright Dominican stars his name is not Miguel Angel, but Pedro, or Juan, or a litany of others, borrowed from his countrymen to defraud the big leagues out of millions of dollars. As Miguel Angel is widely expected to set a record-breaking bonus -- a sum out of reach for several of the teams who most eagerly pursue him -- his family optimistically ponders their good fortune before a scout's allegations of age-fraud brings down the ire of professional baseball's investigative unit and unforeseen consequences.

Juan Carlos Batista

16, is a young shortstop who left home at age 13 to practice with a renowned baseball trainer Astin Jacobo in the wake of his father's death. Three years later, Astin calls Jean Carlos his adopted son, and has turned him into one of the island's elite prospects. Together, they navigate the business side of the Dominican baseball system in search of the highest signing bonus. But as offers arrive, Jean Carlos' overconfidence and the revelation of a secret kept from him by his parents may endanger his promising career, as well as jeopardize his relationship with the man he considers his father.

Astin Jacobo Jr.

Jean Carlos Batista's trainer and coach. The son of one of the first professional baseball scouts in the Dominican Republic, his family has been developing the island's baseball talent for decades. Over the past ten years his program has become a well-known breeding ground for some of the country's top prospects. After signing more than 70 young players to professional teams, Astin prides himself on providing the clubs with quality and most importantly, scandal-free prospects. As a result, he has emerged to be one of the most influential and successful trainers in the country. A leading figure in a wave of Dominican trainers whose business savvy has contributed to the country's rising signing bonuses, Astin's solid gold reputation with professional teams is both his greatest asset, and what he absolutely can't afford to lose.

Vasilio "Moreno" Tejeda

Miguel Angel Sano's trainer and coach. After working with Miguel Angel since he was 13 years old, Moreno has virtually become a member of the young prospect's family. Responsible in part for training Robinson Cano, Moreno has been working with young Dominican talent for over a decade. However, in his eyes, no one he's ever worked with has been as gifted as Miguel Angel. Moreover, "Moreno" is on track to receive 30% of the prospect's potentially record-breaking multi-million dollar signing bonus, and his future is inextricably tied to the young shortstop's success.

Crew Info

John Leguizamo (Narrator)

One of the most prolific writers/performers of his generation. He has won numerous honors and accolades for his one-man shows MAMBO MOUTH, SPIC-O-RAMA, FREAK, SEXAHOLIX...A LOVE STORY, GHETTO KLOWN and has appeared in countless films including MOULIN ROUGE, LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA, CARLITO'S WAY and ICE AGE.

Guagua Productions (Directors)

Founded in 2008 by Ross Finkel, Trevor Martin and Jon Paley. Together, along with unit director Casey Beck, they spent over a year in the Dominican Republic filming PELOTERO. Currently located in New York, they also produce, direct and shoot short films, commercials, and just about anything else you can point a lens at.

Makurhari Media (Executive Producers)

Formed by Bobby Valentine and Andrew J. Muscato in 2010 following their partnership on ESPN Films' THE ZEN OF BOBBY V. PELOTERO is the first in a slate of character-driven sports documentaries that the company is producing.

Isaac Solotaroff (Producer)

Twice Emmy-nominated documentary director, producer and editor. He has directed four PBS documentaries since 2000 (VISIONING TIBET, LOS ROMEROS and BELIEF AMENDED, FAITH REVEALED) and WHAM! BAM! ISLAM! which debuted on Independent Lens.

Mary Manhardt (Editor)

Emmy-award winning documentary film editor and consultant in New York City. Her work has won awards in major festivals, including Sundance, Hot Docs, SXSW, SilverDocs, Tribeca and IDFA, and aired on HBO, PBS, MTV, ABC, A&E and AMC. Among the films she has edited or coedited are: THE FARM, THE EXECUTION OF WANDA JEAN, GIRLHOOD, FARMINGVILLE, STREET FIGHT, AMERICAN TEEN, RACING DREAMS, MYSTIC BALL, A SON'S SACRIFICE, BRONX PRINCESS, CAMP VICTORY, AFGHANISTAN and MONICA & DAVID.

 

Trailer