By Ismael Nunez
The website says it best: Pablo A Medina grew up between Washington D.C and New Jersey of Dominican Parents. He’s an assistant professor at Parsons the New School for Design. He’s the producer/director/writer of the new Baseball Documentary focusing on Dominican Baseball “El Play” Baseball is everywhere is everywhere here…it’s in our blood!
The film’s main character is Jairo Candelario, a young aspiring baseball player from the town of San Pedro de Macoris, a small city in the Dominican Republic. The City is famous for producing some of the best players born in the island among them All Star New York Yankee second baseman Robinson Canoe. The film follows Jairo’s dream of signing a professional contract, you’ll see talks with his family, interviews with professional scouts, coaches and a baseball historian. When watching the film you’ll see/hear other players big dreams, at the same time they talk proudly of providing for their families. It’s a proud short film no more than 30 minutes long yet you’ll see a lot of which the Baseball press hardly ever talks about Baseball when it comes to this country. A job well done by Medina!
To purchase your own copy of the film(of which I recommend highly) just to the Cubanica website. As one fellow Dominican Writer Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz stated “A wonderful heartfelt look at Dominican Republic’s Baseball’s Dreams!
As we sat down before the movie was to be previewed at “El Museo Del Barrio” located on 105th Fifth Avenue this past January (February is Dominican Heritage month along with African-American History Month) we sat for about 10 minutes. Now coming to the plate: Pablo Medina!
The website says it best
1-Is this your first documentary on Latinos/Baseball?
Yes, first documentary
2-So what got you into doing this documentary?
I was in the Dominican Republic to teach a class and saw so many kids playing the sport that I’ve loved my whole life. I wanted to show people who these kids are and how they live and train.
3-In the film you focus on one player why?
I spoke to numerous scouts and told them that I had this idea to make a documentary film about a ‘day in the life of’ a young, talented, aspiring ball player. The name of the scout who I spoke to was Marrero. He introduced me to Jairo. I focused on Jairo because that’s who Marrero thought had the best chance to get signed.
4-Now you focused on this person/ballplayer he didn’t mind that you focused on him? Did you have other players in mind?
Jairo was very excited to be filmed. He didn’t mind at all. His family was gracious and allowed us into their home and invited us with open arms to film on numerous occasions inside their home. They even fed us ‘arroz con pollo .” Jairo’s brother was a good player as well. We also thought about including him, but because of time restraints, we decided to only focus on Jairo.
5-In the area you focus on an area that has produced outstanding Dominican Ballplayers. Is there a magic as to why there’s so success? Also did you ever get a chance to interview a ballplayer born/raised in the area?
The entire film was shot in San Pedro de Macorís. This is a town famous for having great baseball players. There are many reasons why there are so many good baseball players from this city. We cover this briefly in the film. One reason is that there are many sugar mills in the city. Working in the sugar mills is hard work and you have to be physically strong, especially to cut sugar cane. So these athletic men who worked in the mills passed on their athletic genes to their kids who made for excellent baseball players. They were tall, strong, fast and agile, all qualities essential to be a great athlete.
6-What was the budget for the film? Get any money from any Dominican Baseball Players?
The total budget of the film including camera, transportation costs, boarding, food, and post-production expenses was approximately $25,000. I paid for the film myself and was able to do so because it was made over the span of five years. I worked very hard in New York as a graphic designer and would save money every year to invested it in the film. The film was entirely self-funded. We didn’t receive money from any ball players or organization.
7-In the film you focus on the obstacles a Dominican Ballplayer has to go thru. Do other Latin ballplayers from other countries face the same problem? Past and present still the same?
Baseball players from all countries face challenges and sacrifices. Each country where baseball is played, has its own set of challenges that the players face. Even here in the U.S., where resources are abundant, players face difficulties. It’s a long difficult road to become a pro. It requires a great deal of sacrifice, persistence, and courage. In the past, the challenges were different than now. Back then there wasn’t as much support from Major League teams as there is now. It took a long time for Major League teams to establish programs in the DR. Nowadays, every MLB team has a farm system there.When baseball was first played in the DR in the early 1900s, people played to as a pastime and for exercise. Now the incentive to achieve a large signing bonus plays a larger role in the reason why kids play. There is still a great love for the game though. On any afternoon in San Pedro, you will see kids playing baseball for the same reason they played one hundred years ago.
8-Any future projects, films or books coming up?
I’m currently working on a film about a genre of Cuban music called Rumba. Rumba is a cultural form where Spain and Africa come together in beautiful unison. The melodies are from Spain and the rhythms are from Africa.
Ismael Valdez is a Puerto Rican sports writer and a BaseballdeWorld Latin Correspondent.