Major League Baseball playoffs start Tuesday. Over the course of October, ten teams will vie for the chance to raise the Commissioner’s Trophy on a fall evening in November. Millions tune in for the competition and action which can be quite theatrical. Some of these stories have made to their way to the silver screen providing insight, nostalgia and memorable entertainment. Here’s a list of the top Latino baseball films every man should see.
This 2008 drama follows the story of Miguel Santos, a. k. a. Sugar, played with a quiet brilliance by Algenis Perez Soto (Samba), Soto is a Dominican pitcher from San Pedro de Macorís, struggling to make it to the big leagues and pull himself and his family out of poverty. Playing professionally at a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic, Miguel finally gets his break at age 19 when he advances to the United States’ minor league system; but when his play on the mound falters, he begins to question the single-mindedness of his life’s ambition.
If Sugar is a moving drama, Pelotero can be considered the real thing. This 2011 documentary film chronicles two real life Dominican Republic Major League Baseball prospects – Miguel Angel Sanó and Juan Carlos Batista – through the period in which they are eligible to sign major league contracts. The film provides an unfiltered view of the business, politics and corruption the prospects have to navigate in order to achieve their dream. A sobering look at the lives of peloteros and their families in the Dominican Republic. The film is directed by Jonathan Paley, Ross Finkel and Trevor Martin, narrated by John Leguizamo, and produced by Bobby Valentine.
Not a feature film per se, but a documentary from ESPN’s acclaimed “30 for 30” series. Fernando Nation explores the idea of turning the American Dream on its ear. As the film summary states, “The Natural is supposed to be a blue-eyed boy who teethed on a 36-ounce Louisville Slugger. He should run like the wind and throw boysenberries through brick. He should come from California” noted Steve Wulf, of Sports Illustrated in 1981. So how was it that a pudgy 19-year-old Mexican left-handed pitcher from a remote village in the Sonoran desert, unable to speak a word of English, could sell out stadiums across America and become a rock star overnight?
This documentary provides a layered look at the man and the myth, Fernando Nation, traces the history of a community that was revitalized by one of the most captivating pitching phenoms baseball has ever seen proving that the American dream was not reserved for those born on U.S. soil.
The Perfect Game
This film is based on a true story about a group of kids from Monterrey, Mexico who shocked the world by winning 13 games in a row and the Little League World Series in the only perfect game ever pitched in the Championship. Led by their priest and a down-and-out former major leaguer embark on a journey through the southern US and up into Williamsport, PA for the Championship game. They encountered many adversities including nearly being deported and the bigotry that wouldn’t allow them into certain restaurants or travel on certain buses. yet never lost their faith and eventually captured the hearts of both Mexico and the United States.
Brothers In Exile
Another documentary from ESPN’s acclaimed “30 for 30” series. This documentary tells the incredible story of Livan and Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, who risked their lives to escape Cuba. Livan left first– defecting via Mexico and signed with the Florida Marlins, for whom he became one of the youngest World Series MVPs in history. Staying behind was Orlando, who was banned from professional baseball in Cuba for life because he was suspected of helping Livan to escape. Then, on Christmas 1997, he too left Cuba in a small boat and was stranded on a deserted island for days before being picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard. Less than a year later, “El Duque” was helping pitch the New York Yankees to a world championship, completing a most unlikely journey for two half-brothers who rode their arms to freedom and victory.
Filmmaker Dan Klores offers a look at the Latin American athletes who changed the face of America’s national pass-time. Major League Baseball has a rich history of Latino players who overcame racism and cultural divides to triumph on the diamond. In the documentary, director Klores utilizes rare archival footage and extensive interviews with such legends as Keith Hernandez, Rod Carew, Orlando Cepeda, Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, and Carlos Beltran to detail the lives and legacies of the men who risked it all to live out their dreams.