Road to the Big Leagues

I just got done watching a move called Road to the Big Leagues. It’s a documentary about kids in the Dominican Republic, and their overwhelming desire – as a demographic – to become major league baseball players.

The doc interviewed several of the kids, and scouts and trainers at the DR training camps of the Boston Red Sox, St Louis Cardinals, and New York Mets. Also contributing interviews were David Ortiz (the movie was released in 2008, pre-steroid revelation) and Vladimir Guerrero, who is apparently quite the Angel, literally, when he’s not busy putting the killshot on opposing teams’ pitchers. Guerrero spends some of his offseason back in the DR, building schools and helping train some of the kids, giving to charities, and visiting his parents, among other things that make him at least appear more human. The film showed him walking to and from the ballfield, with his trainees in tow, to a house that he built in his hometown. It appears from the outside to be at least more luxurious than most of the other homes in the town, but is rather sparse by US standards, even still. Guerrero also spends a few moments waxing philosophic about what he’d be doing if he hadn’t made it in the world of the MLB. The verdict? Planting okra – the thought makes him laugh the second the words come out of his mouth.

The documentary spends a little time following St Louis Cardinals signee Juan Cabrera, up to the point where he signs his first major league contract with the Cards organization. They demonstrate Cabrera’s training with a man named Machepa, who swings a truck tire at Cabrera to hit with a bat while giving him words of encouragement. Machepa claims that David Ortiz spent some of his formative years training there as well. Ortiz is shown at the camp training with the kids there. Machepa refers to Ortiz as “simple and easy to get along with”, and Ortiz credits Machepa for helping him make it to the majors. Ortiz calls Cabrera’s signing a month before it happens.  Unfortunately, the signing did not stick, and Cabrera has since been released by the Cards – I can’t find much on the situation, however, so I’m not sure why. He has only a 2007 year listed at FanGraphs.

The darker side of DR trainees is also talked about by the folks at the Red Sox camp. Miguel Pegero, a cousin of Rafael Furcal, was a promising player until he was caught lying about his age. As of the time the film was made, he spends his time playing baseball in the DR, and living off street sales and strong-arming of local vendors, basically shaking people down for cash he claims they owe him. While trying to take bread from a local, Pegero and the camera crew are yelled at and pushed away, leaving the viewer with the impression that Pegero is not very good at being a one-man crime syndicate. He downplays the lie about his age, and insists that he was born in 1984 (another certificate claims 1981).  Pegero is said to have a “spark”, but because of the misrepresentation, he may never see an American baseball field.

It was a bit short at around 52 minutes, but a very enjoyable documentary nonetheless, even if only for the spectacle of a smiling, laughing Vlad Guerrero. DR dialect Spanish, with English subtitles. Highly recommended.

EDIT: This has nothing to do with anything, but Tyler Walker just got picked up by the Washington Nationals. Good for him. I always thought he looks like an astronaut.

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