Miami International Film Festival: John Leguizamo talks baseball in “Pelotero”

John Leguizamo, ultimate Mets fan and comedic actor, took a break from his world tour of “Ghetto Klown” to tell the story of two 16-year-old Dominican baseball players as they devote their lives to become players for Major League Baseball. The documentary, “Pelotero”, will be screening on March 3 at the Miami International Film Festival.

After the U.S., the Dominican Republic has the second-highest number of baseball players in MLB, making Dominicans the largest number of foreign professional baseball players.

“You wonder what’s going on?”, says Leguizamo. “How do you get so many players from the Dominican Republic? The unregulated industry becomes full of abuses. There’s got to be more checks and balances.”

In the Dominican Republic, boys become eligible to sign by the time they turn 16. There are scores of low-income teenage boys sacrificing school and enduring months of grueling investigations, due to common cases of age fraud, in hopes of signing for MLB. There are only very few spots available.
In the making of “Pelotero,” three directors spent all of 2009 documenting the lives of two young boys, Miguel Angel Sanó and Jean Carlos Batista, who share the sole all-encompassing dream of playing MLB. The day they become eligible to sign professional baseball contracts, July 2, is the only opportunity they have to get pulled out of poverty.  A lot is at stake.
“I saw how devastating it is when they don’t make it to the big leagues, and they are not being paid what the regular ball players are getting,” says Leguizamo. “It’s a lot of pressure for the kids.”
One of the directors, Trevor Martin, says the most shocking thing is the level of expectation and corruption that goes on. The dream to be a MLB player lets a lot of people take advantage of them.
“It can be dehumanizing,” says Martin. “Also heartbreaking is that 99 percent of them will never make it. They are sacrificing an education and a lot of other options to play baseball.”
“Pelotero,” which has been signed with Strand Releasing, will be distributed in theaters in NY and LA as early as this summer.

Click here to see a clip of the film.


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