Tag Archive | "Documentary"

Spain: Short Documentary on Spanish Division de Honor


For those of you not in the know, David Burns over at BaseballJobsOverseas.com does a fantastic job of finding players places to play over in Europe. David lives, works, and plays in Austria and has done so for years now.

Since starting the website he has helped quite a few players in finding positions in various countries. He also provides a great deal of information for those looking to play. He does a fantastic podcast talking to people all over the world about their baseball experiences and how others can benefit.

Now he has started a documentary series. As he gets the chance to travel around Europe he is filming a few interviews. He recently released the first one, and I highly recommend you check it out. Just click on the link below.

European Baseball Documentary Episode 1: Spanish Division de Honor

David talks to two different teams in Spain to give you a nice little glimpse at the league and what it is like to play there. You also get a look at a couple of the stadiums that they play in, which are much nicer than I initially imagined.

Check it out. It is only about 11 minutes, but it is worth the watch.

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The Miguel Sano Story; The Ballplayer: Pelotero Sequal


Last July we reviewed the movie, and even gave a way a copy to one lucky reader, Ballplayer: PeloteroIf you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s an excellent film that follows two ballplayers in the Dominican as they prepare for signing day.

Well if you liked the first one, get prepared for more.

The film company, Guagua Productions, hasn’t stopped filming Miguel Sano since he was back in the Dominican Republic, and now he is one of the top prospects in all of baseball.

That’s three years of filming. This could be the most in-depth story of of a player’s rise to stardom. But they need your help.

They are trying to get together $25,000 in order to help finish the film. There is a Kickstarter campaign going where with a small donation there are some great rewards ranging from a digital download to DVDs to autographed items from Sano.

I’m really looking forward to this film coming out. So much so that I donated as well. I don’t get any sort of commission for this. I’m just really looking forward to seeing the film and invite you to donate as well.

You can find the Kickstarter page here where you can find out more about the film and donate if you like.

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Documentary About Baseball in Panama: Indestructible: Baseball on the Isthmus


Here at Baseball de World, we applaud people who try to share the world of baseball with or from countries around the world. One of my personal favorite things are baseball films, especially documentaries. That’s why I want to bring to your attention a documentary in the making.

Indestructible: Baseball on the Isthmus is a film by American Eric Soussanin on the history and culture of baseball in Panama. The state of the game in Panama is uncertain as it is trying to rebuild from many years of corruption, under funding, political fighting, and disorganization.

Sousanin’s research in 2008 got him a U.S. Fulbright Grant to spend a year on the Isthmus where he began exploring the countries baseball.

The history of the game alone would make an interesting film by itself. Throw in the corruption and problems that have plague the game there and this should be a great film.

The film includes interviews with some big names from the sport including Omar Moreno, Olmedo Saenz, Bruce Chen, Candy Maldonado, and more.

I’m excited to see the film, but it isn’t finished yet and the need our help.

The filmmakers are in the final stages of production and need help to finish the project. For just $10 you can help the film get made AND get a copy of it for yourself. Any amount will help and you can help get this film made with any donation amount at their Kickstarter page – Indestructible: Baseball on the Isthmus.

I am not one to just suggest anything. I’ve taken a closer look at the film and I am truly excited for this to be made. So much so that I donated. I wouldn’t ask you to and not do it myself.

Here is the trailer from the film. Take a look at it and visit their Kickstarter page to see more from filmmaker Eric Sousanin.

“¡Indestructible!: Baseball on the Isthmus” – Trailer (Avance) from Eric Soussanin on Vimeo.

You can also follow what is happening with the film on Twitter (@PanamaBaseball) and on Facebook as well.

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Movie Review: Gift of the Game


Originally posted at BaseballJourneyman.com

In 1980, writer Randy Wayne White was in Mariel Harbor, Cuba to help a friend retrieve his family during the MarielBoatlift. After the week plus that he spent under armed control in the harbor by the Cuban military, he swore he would never go back.

Twenty years later, White set out for Cuba to try and resurrect a children’s baseball league founded by Ernest Hemingway many years before. He set out to find a team to go with him to bring equipment to the kids where Hemingway taught the game years prior. His team would include a priest, his son, and along with many others two former Major Leaguers in Bill “Spaceman” Lee and Jon Warden.

It took them a year to get the people and equipment in place, not to mention talking the American government into allowing them to go. But with equipment in hand, they set off for Cuba and what took place showed how great this game is.

The original plan was to go to the same area where Hemingway lived to seek out the old players from Hemingway’s Gigi Stars team and try to resurrect the children’s league. Things don’t always go as planned, especially when you are in a place like Cuba.

After first arriving, they were denied by the Cuban government help in finding the former players and were told they couldn’t even play a pick up game. So White, with names of the old players in hand, wonders the streets looking for them and finds some of them. They are greeted by smiles and hugs from Hemingway’s former players who are eager to talk about playing baseball with the great writer. They meet with several of the team members and agree to return in 5 days with the equipment to give to the children and hopefully restart the league.

Back in 1980, White had heard about a pitcher nicknamed “the man with 100 moves” and he was anxious to see if he could find him, so he set off to see. Finding the area where he lives, White was told he was not home but to come back the next day. Little did he know that would not be necessary as Perfidio (sp?) Perez would come find him after hearing they were looking for him.

Throughout their trip, White and the guys saw kids playing baseball everywhere with homemade bats and balls. The bats would be hand carved out of tree limbs and they would fashion balls out of anything they could find. It was amazing to see the love of the game there. They don’t have cable TV, Nintendo, and things like malls that take up so much of the attention of kids in other parts of the world. Seeing the looks on the kid’s faces when the guys would stop their bus and hand out equipment was priceless. Holding a real ball or bat in their hands their smiles would light up the night sky.

Twice White, Lee, Warden, and the rest of the guys play pick up games. They were usually out manned but everyone involved always had a great time. After every game a party would spring up and dancing, eating, and drinking would spring about. Just the simple happiness seen in the people of the land was infectious. But it wasn’t always the case.

In downtown Havana things were quite different. There people were much more aware of the police presence around them and were quick to quiz the Americans if they were some sort of police. On one hand you can see the passion for the game and the pure simple joy they get out of it, and the next minute you can see the oppression and fear that these people experience on a daily basis.

Perhaps the best example was from the former players themselves. After returning to hand out the equipment, they were told there would be no game and no party. The joy in their faces had gone and they were very serious. It turns out that higher ups had deemed it wasn’t going to happen and they had no choice but to follow suit. A compromise was soon had that there would be no game, but there would be a party.

The government had allowed the guys to play one sanctioned exhibition game with the Cuban Over 40 team. These were all ex-players who could still play a bit. While the game highlights and banter were fun to watch, the real excitement came after the game. This is when a government official came with armed soldiers to take all the equipment they had brought. They took everything from the bus that they had on them. Luckily they were smart enough to pay someone to hide a lot of the equipment for the kids so when it came time to give it out it was there.

I really enjoyed this film. Bill Lee is always fun to watch. He is a great ambassador for the game and always funny. I was not familiar with Jon Warden but the grew on me very quickly. He is a fun-loving and funny guy who just wants to make people smile. But the best part of the film was the kids. They benefited in the form of equipment and were very excited anytime a hat, ball, glove, or bat was handed out. It’s a shame that they are unable to get the proper equipment needed for the game. There is, and always has been, a wealth of talent there.

I highly recommend anyone who is a baseball fan to watch this film.

If you enjoy this film, you might also want to check out Bill Lee’s journey to Cuba to share the game in Spaceman: A Baseball Odyssey.

 

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Movie Review: Time in the Minors


Time in the Minors

I have watched a lot of documentaries on baseball. My favorite ones deal with what minor leaguers do in order to reach the major leagues, and Time in the Minors delivers.

Time in the Minors is a film by Tony Okun that follows two minor league players in their quest to reach the major leagues through the 2006 season. The best part of this film is that it follows two players in different times of their career. The first was a 6th round pick out of one of the best college baseball programs in the country in Stanford named Tony Schrager. By this time, Schrager had been in the minor leagues for 8 years and had reached the AAA level, but had not reached the majors. The other player followed is a high school player drafted in the 1st round by the Cleveland Indians in John Drennen. With a million dollar bonus, Drennen heades to low A ball as he starts his professional career.

With each player you get to see different aspects of minor league life, the breaks you need to advance through the levels, and the hard work that has to go in everyday.

Minor League Life

Whether you are a 1st round pick that got a million dollar signing bonus or a 6th round pick who only got an $87,500 bonus, life in the minors is going to be similar. No matter where you get drafted, you aren’t going to make a living playing single A baseball. Pay is just not that much. In 1998, rookie league players got paid $850 a month. By 2005, rookie league players were only up to $1175 a month in pay. Then take in the fact that you only get paid during the baseball season, you aren’t talking about enough to make a living through the year. Plus they do not get paid during spring training. This is something that is often overlooked in different documentaries covering minor league baseball, so I was glad to see it addressed in Time in the Minors.

It’s a difficult time for the players, but also for their loved ones. At one point, Tony Schrager and his wife talk about some of the things they went through. I was glad this was included in the film because its the little things like this that are too often overlooked. At one point in the year, Tony was playing with Carolina but was promoted to AAA Albuquerque. He had to jump on a plane and get to the Salt Lake City where Albuquerque was on the road and leave everything behind. So his wife was given the task of driving from their home in Arizona to North Carolina, pack up everything, and drive it back to Arizona. This isn’t they type of thing that you hear about often if at all. But it gives you more insight of the difficult things a minor leaguer, and his family, can be put through.

Being a professional baseball player isn’t always glamorous. Most people see the Major Leaguers and see the glamor that goes along with it, but life in the minors isn’t so glamorous. Between the long bus rides, low pay, old ballparks, cramped dressing areas, and sometimes living with a lot of teammates or with a host family, life in the minors takes a tough willed player to keep going.

John Drennen

John Drennen with the Akron Aeros

Catching Some Breaks

Every year, 1500 players are drafted into the minor leagues. That means a lot of players are going to lose their jobs to newer younger players. You don’t make it to the big leagues without talent, and you might not make it without catching some breaks. But in the grand scheme of things, those breaks can go against you.

That is what happened to Tony Schrager in 2005. Schrager worked hard and made his way through the minor league system. Having made it to AAA with

the Dodgers organization, he was invited to spring training and told he was one of 35 guys they thought could help them in the big leagues that year. Tony got sent down to AAA to start the season but felt this was his year to be called up. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. I don’t want to giveaway everything that happens, but as someone who dreamed of playing major league baseball as a kid, it’s a little hard to watch as Tony get past over after many solid years in the minors.

It just goes to show that the breaks don’t always go your way. Less than 10% of the players that play minor league baseball will make it to the major leagues. Sometimes it takes more than simply talent to make the big leagues.

Tony Schrager

Tony Schrager with the Carolina Mudcats

Work Hard Everyday

Perhaps the greatest part of this documentary is the inside look at just how hard you have to work everyday in the minor leagues.

When a player reaches the minor leagues, playing everyday might be the most difficult thing for him to overcome. John Drennen went from high school to the pros and you got to see his struggles which was an interesting inside look at a top prospect. Injuries, the daily grind, and simply learning how to prepare to play everyday are things that get shown in the movie. Drennen’s manager Lee May Jr. talks about the challenges that players go through. Learning how to pace themselves is key to becoming a better player. Drennen is a player who goes hard all the time, but learning how to pace himself to make it through that daily grind was one thing that he talked about.

Too many people think that being a professional player is just sleeping late, showing up to play a game, and partying all night. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The ones that work hard everyday are the ones that have a better chance to continue the climb through the minors. The documentary does a great job conveying that each time a player moves up they have to prove themselves again.

The documentary also shows the mental side of the game, which is one thing that is so attractive about the film. This might be the part of the game that separates the cream of the crop from the everyone else. Tony Schrager talks about have a bad day in the baseball business and the possibility of losing a job. That is not something that is apt to happen in the rest of the business world. If you have a bad day at the office chances are you will come back the next day without fear of losing your job. That’s not the case with a minor league player. On a whim a player can have a job one day and not the other.

Filmmaker Tony Okun talks with some big whigs from the baseball world which was a nice added touch. Getting to hear the insight of people like Indians Director of Player Development (now the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays) or advanced scout for the Chicago Cubs Brad Kelley was very interesting. These are the people making the decisions on who to sign, who to cut, or who to promote/demote in their systems. But one of the people in the film that I really enjoyed listening to was Kenneth Ravizza, PhD. He is a Professor of Sport Psychology from Cal State Fullerton University. He was able to talk about the challenges that players face playing everyday and some of the things that they must overcome in order to continue to advance through the minors. It was very interesting to hear from a professional point of view.

I think the quote from the beginning of the movie sums up a lot of things dealing with minor league life.

Every day is an opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.” Bob Feller – Hall of Fame pitcher, Cleveland Indians (1936-1956)

This is by far one of my favorite documentaries on minor league baseball. The contrasts from a player working to make the majors in his 8th season to a young kid straight out of high school makes for a great film. I would highly recommend to anyone who is a baseball fan to check out this film. It’s a great look at what it takes to make it to the big leagues. Life isn’t always sun and fun in the minors, but those that are mentally tough, willing to learn, and work hard have the upper hand to make it to the show.

You can purchase the film Time in the Minors here and you won’t be sorry you did.

Check out the trailer on YouTube –

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Movie Review: Road to the Big Leagues


Originally posted on BaseballJourneyman.com

Road to the Big Leagues (Rumbo A Las Grandes Ligas)

Besides the United States, more big leaguers come from the Dominican Republic than any other country. For many in the poor country, baseball is their life and their only way off the island. This movie is a look inside the the world of baseball in the Dominican Republic.

Kids here learn baseball from an early age. They will play anywhere they can find a stick and something to swing at. In the movie, the game of choice was “vitilla” which was a form of stick ball, except there was no ball. Instead, they used the plastic cap from a water bottle. A “safe” hit was one where the fielder could not pick up the cap before it stopped moving, whereas an “out” was when they could pick it up as it still moved.

The kids would play anywhere they could. Many had practically nothing but lived with the dreams of making the big leagues. A glove or jersey was a prized possession, and a chance to play ball is all they wanted.

The film followed a few players for a while. One was Juan Cabrera. He was a 17-year-old kid who dreamed big. He followed the circuit of tryout camps hoping to get signed. And even though he showed some talent, it took him some time before he was finally signed.

Many of the major leaguers return home during the off-season to live and workout where they grew up. They showed two of these stars as they worked out with kids from their neighborhoods. The first was David Ortiz. He is from Santo Domingo, and he would return home during the winter months to work out. The man who trained him when he was 15 was training Cabrera, so we got to see what Ortiz thought of the young talented player. It was an interesting look at the hunger displayed by someone who is trying to make it, and at the same time the hunger and drive of someone who had made it but wanted to stay at the top of his game.

The movie also showed a bit of the ugly side of baseball in the Dominican as well. There are many players who try to use fake documents to show they are younger than they really are in order to get signed. One of those players was showcased in this film.

The player in question was the cousin of a major league star and was talented in his own right. However, he was caught lying about his age (saying he was 21 instead of 24) after he had signed a contract with the Red Sox. If someone is caught, they are immediately released and banned from the game. So here was this young kid who tried to cheat the system. He was out of baseball, had no job, and was hustling to make it day to day. It’s a sad reality, but one that does exist.

The film also showed life inside the academies of the Dominican. When players are signed, they are assigned to that teams academy. There they are trained as ballplayers. They eat, sleep, and drink baseball. But they also learn another important aspect for many of them, English. Here the players will compete with one another to improve enough to be assigned to a minor league team in the United States. From there they will begin their journey to the big leagues.

There are a lot of success stories from these academies, and this is why they run them. In the film, one of the big prospects at the Mets academy was Carlos Gomez who is now a major leaguer having played 2010 with the Milwaukee Brewers. There are countless stories of kids coming from poor backgrounds to the majors, and this is what motivates and drives these young kids. They see the success stories, and they want to fulfill that dream.

The academies are realistic though. They know not everyone is going to make it, but they are hopeful that they are around the average which is about 5 players in 100 reaching the majors. That’s not a great percentage, but its enough to keep the kids playing hard and the teams looking for more talent.

It’s a never ending cycle it seems but there is a lot of talent to be found. Players coming out of the Dominican Republic are some of the best in the majors. They are aggressive (the other MLB player highlighted might be the most aggressive in Vladimir Guerrero), and as the old saying goes, you can’t walk off the island.

I really enjoyed this movie, and would recommend it to any baseball fan out there. It is only 52 minutes long, so it is not a huge time commitment. I was able to stream it on Netflix, so check that out if you have it. Or you can pick it up on Amazon Road to the Big Leagues (Rumbo A Las Grandes Ligas).

It’s a good film to see, but it just doesn’t go into a whole lot of depth an any one subject which is really the only complaint I have.

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Movie Review: Touching Home: Baseball in the Bushes


Originally posted on BaseballJourneyman.com

Noun 1. bush league – a league of teams that do not belong to a major league (especially baseball)

Touching Home, Baseball in the Bushesis a short documentary about life in the minors and the 2004 Chillicothe Paints.

Located in Chillicothe, Ohio (population 25,000), the Paints are one of the founding members of the Frontier League (the team is now apart of a top collegiate summer league). The area in Ohio has a long history of baseball, and this documentary brings that out which was very interesting. Using old photos and newspaper articles, they show baseball stories going back to the beginning of baseball in Chillicothe in 1884.

The makers of the movie did a great job blending the rich history of Chillicothe into the modern day team. The chronicled some of the older players whose numbers had been retired for various reasons over their 14 year history. Talking to some lifetime fans in the area who had seen it all was a very nice touch. You got stories from someone who was there and new most of the players instead of just someone who had heard stories.

What I really liked about this movie was how they took you behind the scenes of the club and talked to you about some of the financials dealing with an independent minor league team. For instance, each team in the Frontier League had to carry 11 rookies, and each rookie was to be paid $600 a month. That is not a lot of money to live off of which is why the team has to rely on host families to provide the players with meals and a roof over their heads.

Chillicothe was the smallest market in the league, and was the only remaining original member. They were able to do this because of things like the league salary cap. MLB could learn a thing or two from this. Veterans were paid up to $1200 a month. This was for someone who had a few years of affiliated ball under their belts which wasn’t the case for most of these players.

Leagues like the Frontier League are always bringing in new players. A slump in a league like this could cost you your job and perhaps a chance to make back to or into affiliated ball. So players play hard because they know they are always close to being cut which makes this level of play, while not the highest in professional ball, some of the more interesting. There are no bonus babies who let their ego go to their head. Those players wouldn’t cut it at this level. They would be cut before they knew what hit them. Hustle is key, and to me that always makes for good baseball no matter what the talent level.

There were 3 players that they talked to. You got a good feel for their stories and lives in the minors which was nice, but I would have loved to have seen a little bit more actual baseball action. Most of that was done in the background of the stories they were telling. I understand this can be a difficult balancing act, and I am not one easily pleased when it comes to a baseball documentary. But with all that said, I really enjoyed this movie.

Sure it would have been nice to hear from more players but they did include the manager, the pitching coach, the general manager, and some long time fans which was a nice touch. Overall I thought they did a really good job with it. It’s short, but I am always going to want more no matter how long or short it is.

I would definitely recommend watching this, especially if you like minor league baseball. You get a little feel for the history of baseball in the area, and you get a good look at what life can be like for a struggling independent league ball player.

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Movie Review: Bottom of the Ninth


Originally posted on BaseballJourneyman.com

I try to watch any and all documentaries on baseball especially ones about minor league baesball. I found this one on the web some time ago but never pulled the trigger on getting it. Recently I found it on Netflix, so I had to get it to watch.

I have seen some good ones of the years on minor league baseball. I am fascinated by the life the guys in the minors go through on their journey to the majors or obscurity. So when this one came in the mail, I immediately sat down to watch it. I think my expectations were a little too high though, and I was disappointed.

Bottom of the Ninth tells the story of the 2001 season of the New Jersey Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League. There are a lot of characters on the team managed by the great Sparky Lyle, who is a character himself. There are some former major leaguers on the team like pitcher John Briscoe. Through in some guys who put up amazing stats some years (Billy Hall stole 104 bases in 2000 with 66 in a row without being thrown out) and you have a great cast of characters. But the story was lacking with life in the minors.

The movie talked more about their run for the championship, which in itself was interesting, but I was really looking for more on life in the minors. The best part of the movie was the championship series which really was thrilling, but I wanted to see more about the players lives and how many of them have adjusted to play at the lowest level of professional baseball.

I would not say don’t watch this, but I would not recommend spending $25 to purchase it. Instead, if you have Netflix toss it in your queue and watch it when it comes. But if you are like me and have seen several of the other really good ones, don’t get your hopes up. But if you go into it knowing that it is good for other reasons, you will really enjoy it.

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Movie Review: Out of Left Field


Originally posted on BaseballJourneyman.com

Out of Left Field: The Making of the Chinese Olympic Baseball Team

This is the story of how two former major leaguers worked for four years to turn China into a formidable team for the Olympics in Beijing. Former MLB manager Jim Lefebvre led the way in teaching these athletes the right way to play the game in order to become competitive with the best on the world’s stage. Lefebvre was helped by former MLB pitcher Bruce Hurst who acted as pitching coach for the Chinese National team.

This was a short (1 hour) PBS documentary of what the team went through in order to post a competitive team as they hosted the Olympics. They had a lot to overcome in the process and it was interesting to see how they progressed as a team.

Perhaps the main issue was lack of experience. Baseball is not a huge sport in China like it is elsewhere in the world. The Chinese players don’t have the same opportunity as players in many other places  have in learning the game. So the team set out to play a lot of games prior to the Olympics. They made several trips to the US, did a tour of Italy playing other international teams, and played in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.

In their initial tour of the US, in 2005, they played a lot of junior college teams and some high school all-star teams. You would think a national team should blow these teams away, but they didn’t. They were still learning the game, but soon they would be able to field a team that could play with some of the best teams in the world.

They toured Italy in 2005 playing teams like Cuba among others. One of the big issues with this tour was food. I thought it was interesting how the movie showed how they fed the team during the course of the few years they were together. In the US they had places fix them special meals like what they would eat back home. In Italy, they had issues with finding food that the players liked. Apparently the noodles in Italy and China are very different and they did not like the Italian noodles. So, they resulted in eating at places like McDonald’s at times.

Another issue they had, as you might expect with American coaches, was the language barrier. They said the first translator knew so little about baseball that she was calling a bat the golf club. They finally got that sorted out, but it was still laborous at times to get their point across while coaching. Most of the players spoke no English, and the coaches didn’t speak any Chinese. They overcame it though and you could really see how the team became competitive. It didn’t happen overnight though.

China would go on to a 1-6 record at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Despite the bad record, many of the games were very close including a 1-0 loss to eventual gold medalist South Korea. They did manage to beat Chinese Taipei 8-7 in extra innings for their only victory.

I don’t think anyone felt China would be a medal contender in their first Olympics, but hopefully their run up to the Olympics only helped spread the game of baseball more in China.

I highly recommend anyone picking this up. I got it through Netflix, so I know it’s available there. You can also purchase through Amazon here – Out of Left Field.

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Interview With Dominican Baseball Filmmaker Pablo Medina


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.

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Movie Review: Nine Innings from Ground Zero: The 2001 World Series


Originally posted on BaseballJourneyman.com

Nine Innings From Ground Zero: The 2001 World Series

This was easily the most emotional documentary on baseball I have ever seen. Everyone remembers exactly where they were on that fateful day in September of 2001.  This movie (from HBO) did a great job of telling the story of NYC, and America, after 9/11 and how many people took refuge in the game of baseball at least for a brief moment.

This was a touching movie. I am a Yankee hater.  I hate the evil empire with every fiber of my being, but this documentary put them in a light where they could at least be tolerated for a short time.  And I think that is how all Yankee haters felt in 2001.  They were a symbol for the mighty city that had taken a blow, but would not quit.

The interviews in the documentary were very moving. That time is very emotional for all Americans, but as someone who only saw it from the outside looking in, it is much more emotional when I hear someone who lost family members talk about it. There were some sad stories, but they were stories of heroes. Heroes that must never be forgotten.

I would strongly recommend this to any baseball fan. It chronicles the immediate aftermath of resuming play in MLB, and the 2001 World Series which was one of the greatest ever.

Seeing this reminds me of just how much I love this game. How it can be many things to many people, but in the end it is the same to everyone, a great escape from the harshness of everyday life. You could see and hear about people who lost themselves in a game, even if for only a few hours, to help themselves deal with the enormity of the situation. To see them so caught up in the game that has brought happiness to so many during such a difficult time was great to see.

I thought the story tellers did a fine job of combining not only what the fans were going through, but what the players were going through as well as people like the mayor and his staff.

And perhaps best of all, you got to see how everyone pulled together. Seeing the heroes on the field become the awestruck was a good side to see. It reminds us how precious life is, and how baseball, while not being a healer necessarily, can help ease the pain of the time.

You can pick it up off of Amazon.  So go out today and pick up your copy.  It’s well worth it if you haven’t seen it yet.

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Movie Review: Kokoyakyu: High School Baseball


Originally posted on BaseballJourneyman.com

Each year in Japan, 4,000 high schools compete for the national championship known as the “Koshien”.  They compete in regional tournaments for a chance to be one of 49 teams to make the “Koshien”. Kokoyakyu is a look at what 2 teams go through on their quest for the championship.

This movie, from PBS’s POV, follows 2 teams on their quest.  One team is a public high school in the Osaka area with the other being a private school that won the Koshien the previous year.  It’s a great look into the differences of the two types of schools and how baseball effects the rest of their daily lives. You get to see how hard it is for the public schools to compete on the same level as the private schools in terms of practice time, fields, and school work.

Not only do you get a look into how hard they practice and how dedicated they are, but you get to see other sides of the story.  Cheering is a big part of Asian athletics, and the cheer squads for the teams are no exception. They take their job very seriously and practice very hard. It’s nice to see more than just how things affect the baseball team, but seeing how the parents, the students, and the coaches are affected as well. There are some moving scenes where non-players are very emotional.

One thing I really liked about the movie was seeing how ritualistic, and on a certain level spiritualistic, the baseball culture is in Japan. When the season is over you see just how much the games mean to the players and coaches alike. There are some touching moments that I am not sure you would ever see in America. I guess that is one of the big attractions to the Asian cultures for me. They are extremely committed to excellence and their love of the games is so pure.  It’s great.

The movie also gives a look into just how difficult this tournament is and how important it is. I can’t think of a more difficult baseball tournament.  Perhaps this is why it is so well known, and it has only strengthened my desire to see some of the tournament.

I can’t stress how much I recommend this film.  I watched it on Hulu and I am sure it is still available there. The only complaint that I can think of is that is was too short.  It was only an hour long, but I understand it was made for TV, but I would have loved to see much more.

It’s a must see.  Go check out Hulu.com today.  Find it and watch it.  You will not be disappointed.

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