The film, Ballplayer: Pelotero, was an informative view of the lives of two young Dominican boys who dream of someday signing a huge contract and playing for a major league baseball franchise. Dominican boys start playing baseball at a very early age and love to play the game, but they are under enormous pressure to be great. The pressure comes from the Dominican Government, the Buscones, MLB, and even from family members, as well as themselves. The two young boys who are from the Dominican Republic come from very poor families.
Growing up, these boys ate, slept, and lived baseball, hoping that a MLB franchise will give them a chance to play baseball for them in the United States. Only a handful of players ever make it to the tryouts, which happens every year on July 2, but only for the players that show great talent for the game. The boys worked very hard to be the best so that they will get a MLB contract. This would mean that the boy’s families would no longer be poor and move out of their impoverished areas.
The Dominican players who are fortunate enough to make it to the major leagues are the sole support for their impoverished families, so the pressure for the boys to be the best is huge. Buscones, which are trainers or agents, look for young Dominican players to recruit as early as 11 or 12 years old. These Buscones look for young boys who have talent and the potential to be great. According to Sean Gregory, author of Baseball Dreams: Striking Out in the Dominican Republic, the Dominican Republic is baseball’s puppy mill.
Gregory says, “The Buscones develop and sometimes feed and house these teenage players, with the intent of selling them to the highest bidder. ” This would mean that if a major league franchise signs a young player to a contract, the Buscones would stand to make a large percentage of the boys’ signing bonuses. The more talented the player is, the bigger the signing bonus, which in turn makes the Buscones more money. Buscones are not “in it” for love of the game or for the young players. Buscones are only “in it” for the money. The Dominican government stands to gain public recognition for the young players who sign major league contracts.
If a player from the Dominican Republic has a stupendous career in baseball, there is a lot of publicity about where the player is from and how he got to the major leagues. This, in turn, looks good for the Dominican Government for having the MLB training academies where the player or players were trained. All 30 major league franchises have training academies in the Dominican. The conditions that of some of the players are forced to live with at these academies are deplorable. “Some resembled prisons and most of them were horrible,” says Charles Farrell, who was part of a group directed by MLB to study these facilities. We found bugs in the rooms, cheese sandwiches for dinner. ” The Dominican Government is only concerned with the positive outcomes of the training academies and how the academies were able to train such exemplary players. The government is not concerned with what the young players had to go through to become great ball players, as long as it looks good for the Dominican Republic. The two Dominican players were trying to achieve their dreams of signing contracts to play for the MLB. The two players were looking forward to July 2, which is when they would be eligible to sign with a major league franchise, as long as they were sixteen years old.
Controversy surrounds one of the players, who, some suspect, is being untruthful about his age. The player is 6’1” and sixteen years of age, and some believe that because of his height, he is being dishonest about his age. He has undergone a considerable amount of scrutiny about his age, and because of the ongoing investigation, the all-important July 2 deadline to sign a contract has come and gone. The film ends with the teenage player waiting to find out his fate and whether or not the suspicions about his age will be cleared and he can fulfill his dreams of signing a major league contract. His future hangs in the balance.