Latin America, especially the Dominican Republic, has produced many of the elite players in Major League Baseball today. While the Dominican Republic is a small country on Hispaniola, it has produced the second most Major League players behind only the United States.
Ballplayer: Pelotero takes a look at the signing of baseball players in the Dominican Republic, and how the scouts scrutinize everything about the players who are only 16 years old. July 2nd is signing day for every player who has turned 16 in the last calendar year. It is the day in which dreams can be made or broken based upon a phone call from a Major League team and their interest in the player.
If you want to watch the film without any spoilers skip the next paragraph.
Ballplayer: Pelotero follows highly touted prospects Miguel Angel Sanó and Jean Carlos Batista as signing day approaches. Both should command high signing bonuses, however the investigation into the age of Sanó ultimately costs him much of what he had hoped for. Sanó is found to be 16 years old after much hassle and investigation and does not sign with the Minnesota Twins until well after July 2nd. Batista appears to be the sort of clean player that Major League teams want, but towards the end of the film and after an investigation he is found to be older than 16, thus his value is not as high and he will sign with a team for much less than a 16 year old would. In addition to losing the signing bonus he had hoped for, Batista is suspended for a year and unable to sign with any team while suspended.
Ultimately the film delves into the some times not so pretty world that is scouting and signing of young men to play professional baseball. While it does not appear in the film that anything illegal occurs, the actions taken by scouts, handlers, and agents concerning the players do and should raise some eye brows.
Baseball is a way out of the poverty they live in for many of the young men in the Dominican Republic, however the film does not focus on those who tried and failed. There is no safety net like a high school or college education for these players to fall back on if say they blow out their knee, elbow, should, what have you. The risks are real, and yet so are the pay offs.
I would recommend any serious baseball fan to watch Ballplayer: Pelotero and to gain a better understanding of how the great Latin players we see in the minors and majors reach those heights. Ballplayer: Pelotero is available through Netflix, which is where I came across this film.