A news documentary on Major League Baseball’s recruitment of young players in the Dominican Republic is stirring up controversy in front offices across the US.
The documentary, titled “Ballplayer: Pelotero,” takes a close look at the Dominican, where baseball is a centerpiece of the country’s culture and economy. It’s known for harboring top prospects and is the birthplace of approximately 20 percent of current professional baseball players.
The film features Miguel Angel Sano and Jean Carlos Batista, two 15-year-old, up-and-coming ballplayers, and their recruitment onto professional farm teams, the development organizations for young prospects.
They are eligible to be signed by the teams at age 16. As seen in the documentary, many professional scouts vie for players using intimidation and threats. Rene Gayo, a scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates, promises Sano that he will make an investigation about Sano’s eligibility go away if he signs with the Pirates immediately.
A member of Sano’s family later in the movie calls the MLB “a mafia.”
The MLB stands behind its scouts, however, and disputed the documentary’s accuracy.
“The film has inaccuracies and misrepresentation and does not reflect the current status of operations in the Dominican Republic,” said an MLB spokesman quoted in the Boston Globe.
Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine served as executive producer of the film, directed by Trevor Martin, Jon Paley, and Ross Finkle.
The filmmakers were on their way to creating “Ballplayer: Pelotero,” when they were given an opportunity by GlobalPost to freelance several articles and videos. In the spring of 2009, Trevor Martin and his team created a three-part series called “Dominican Dreams” with GlobalPost’s support.
In Part II of the series, the filmmakers follow shortstop Miguel Angel Sano, the co-star of “Ballplayer: Pelotero.”
“GlobalPost… helped get the word out, gauge interest, and to financially promote the film,” says Martin, one of the filmmakers who's thrilled to see the documentary make it to the national stage.
Soon after the GlobalPost series finished, Martin and his team partnered with Valentine’s production company, Makuhari Media, to create the 73-minute film that will be previewed Wednesday at the Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline, MA, and will open nationally in ten independent theaters Friday, July 13.