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Monday, June 08, 2009


"Sugar" may be the best film about baseball that I've seen. It is a realistic story of a young pitcher from the Dominican Republic who is invited to spring training in the USA and then assigned to a low minor league team in small-town Iowa.

The film focuses attention on the agents and leagues operating in Latin America, as well as the immigrant experience in America. Indeed, the film would have been perfect for my "Globalization (and Baseball)" course that I taught during fall 2003. After all, I assigned Stealing Lives by Arturo J. Marcano Guevara and David P. Fidler, which tells the story of sweatshop baseball labor throughout Latin America.

Former Cincinnati Reds ace Jose Rijo plays a fairly prominent role in the movie. Apparently, presuming the film is accurate, baseball has upgraded the facilities in the Dominican Republican because Marcano Guevara and Fidler describe players working and living in squalor.

As you might expect, the film gives some attention to steroids. Most importantly, it emphasizes the precarious position of young men in Latin America pursuing an unlikely dream. The movie also shows the advantages granted to the million dollar draftee ("Brad Johnson") from Stanford. He teaches the main character about the life and work of former Latin star Roberto Clemente, who said: "Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don't, then you are wasting your time on Earth."

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