×

Pelotero

Documentarians Jonathan Paley, Ross Finkel and Trevor Marin lucked out while filming young baseball players in the Dominican Republic, a hot topic after the success of "Sugar."

With:
With: Miguel Angel Sano, Jean Carlos Batista, Astin Jacobo Jr., Vasilio "Moreno" Tejeda. Narrator: John Leguizamo. (English, Spanish dialogue)

Documentarians Jonathan Paley, Ross Finkel and Trevor Marin lucked out while filming young baseball players in the Dominican Republic, a hot topic after the success of “Sugar.” With an inherently suspenseful setup — a long buildup to a single day of Major League contract signings that will determine the future of its talented hopefuls — the docu would have doubtless secured a berth on sports channels in any case. But what gives “Pelotero” its edge is a nexus of corruption, exploitation and betrayal that transforms this well-shot, cannily edited item into an engrossing expose. Further play is assured, with limited theatrical definitely in the ballpark.

Jazzing up its exposition with archival footage and John Leguizamo’s narration, the docu concisely establishes the well-known facts — not just the importance of baseball to Dominicans as a ticket out of poverty, but also the importance of Dominicans to baseball; they rep 20% of all professional players in the U.S. Every Major League team has a scout in the D.R., and an MLB office is quartered in Santa Domingo. With this level of investment, it is hardly surprising MLB feels free to call the shots and impose its own rules.

“Pelotero” winds up following two players, shortstop Jean Carlos Batista and five-tool talent Miguel Angel Sano, a hot prospect regarded as the next big thing. Filmmakers chronicle the training period from the beginning of the season until July 2, the date on which 16-year-olds are eligible to be snatched up. Every day after that, a player’s expected signing bonus decreases. Formerly, Dominicans received a small fraction of the astronomical figures commanded by their Stateside peers, but recent years have seen more equity. Batista is hoping for $650,000; estimates on Sano’s offer run closer to $5 million.

But not every team can afford to pay such enormous sums for promising players, and an unscrupulous coach, possibly in cahoots with MLB, sets out to deflate Sano’s asking price, planting rumors and placing roadblocks to his success. Meanwhile, Batista, having rejected a contract he felt low-balled him, becomes mired in a controversy of his own making. The drama affects not only the kids and their families, but the extremely articulate trainers who have overseen the development of the peloteros for countless months and have pinned their dreams (and their commissions) on their talents.

Casual interviews with scouts, reporters, teammates and relatives, framed by colorful if ramshackle homes, streets and ball fields, keep the docu flowing smoothly as outrageous events overtake the scenario.

Pelotero

Docu

Production: A Makuhari Media production in association with Guagua Prods. and Endeavor Films. Produced by Ross Finkel, Trevor Martin, Jonathan Paley, Isaac Solotaroff. Executive producers, Andrew J. Muscato, Bobby Valentine, Robert Castrignano, Douglas Lorentz, Robert Musumeci. Directed by Ross Finkel, Trevor Martin, Jonathan Paley. Story, Josh Wolf, Paley.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Finkel; editors, Mary Manhardt, Isaac Solotaroff; music supervisor, Eileen O'Neill; supervising sound editor, Benny Mouthon; re-recording mixer, Mouthon; sound editor, Brian Bracken. Reviewed at Hamptons Film Festival (World Cinema), Oct. 16, 2011. Running time: 77 MIN.

Cast: With: Miguel Angel Sano, Jean Carlos Batista, Astin Jacobo Jr., Vasilio "Moreno" Tejeda. Narrator: John Leguizamo. (English, Spanish dialogue)

More Scene

  • Naomi Watts and Gretchen Carlson'The Loudest

    ‘The Loudest Voice’ Stars Naomi Watts, Russell Crowe Talk Roger Ailes

    Roger Ailes may have been the force behind the creation of Fox News, but the late newsman’s legacy will forever be his atrocious sexual harassment of several of the network’s female anchors and producers. Showtime premiered its new limited series “The Loudest Voice,” which chronicles Ailes’ rise and fall, on Monday night at the Paris [...]

  • Billy Eichner Power of Pride Variety

    Billy Eichner on Taylor Swift's 'Calm Down' Backlash

    When Taylor Swift released her “You Need to Calm Down” music video, it seemed like every member of the LGBTQ in Hollywood was included — except for Billy Eichner. “I’m still not gay enough for Taylor Swift — or too gay — I don’t know what it is,” Eichner joked at Variety’s Power of Pride [...]

  • Bebe Rexha

    Mumford and Sons, Sting, Ciara, Bebe Rexha Light Up Cannes Lions

    There was no shortage of excellent music at the 2019 edition of Cannes Lion. The international gathering of creatives drew top music brands – among them: Spotify, Live Nation, iHeartRadio, SiriusXM/Pandora, VEVO and Universal Music Group – and a slew of well-known acts to stages across the Croissette, to villas above the city and onto [...]

  • Patrick Wilson

    Patrick Wilson, Mckenna Grace on Scary Stories From 'Annabelle Comes Home' Set

    Tales of spooky occurrences on the sets of horror movies like “The Exorcist” and “Poltergeist” have circulated for years, and it looks like “The Conjuring” franchise is following in their footsteps in that regard. The cast of “Annabelle Comes Home” shared their unnerving stories from set at the film’s premiere on Thursday night at the Regency [...]

  • Donald Trump Chucky Childs Play

    'Child's Play' Stars on New Chucky's 'Creepy' Resemblance to Donald Trump

    At Wednesday night’s world premiere of the “Child’s Play” remake, it was obvious that evil doll Chucky — the star of seven films over three decades — had a little work done. And now he bears a striking resemblance to Donald Trump. “Oh, you caught that?” Aubrey Plaza asked Variety on the black carpet outside [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content