By 2008, more than 25 percent of major league baseball players were born in Latin America. At 19, Miguel "Sugar" Santos, a serious kid from the Dominican Republic, signs with Kansas City. He flies to Phoenix for tryouts and is sent to the Class A team "The Swing" in the fictional town of Bridgetown, Iowa, where he lives with a farm family. Thus begins his odyssey: leaving his mom and girlfriend; living in an alien culture; learning English; overcoming jitters; working hard; achieving early success; navigating friendships, occasional racism, and a woman's mixed signals; dealing with an injury; trying performance-enhancing drugs; and, searching for his place in the world. Will he make it to the Majors; will he play in New York?Written by
If you have no knowledge of, or appreciation for, the sport of baseball, then I think you will likely not enjoy this film as much as those who do. It is more of a baseball movie than many such movies, such as "The Natural," since it plays almost like a documentary rather than the usual script of "talent, obstacles, ultimate fantastic success." I can imagine that the box office receipts for this in the United Kingdom would be about what they would be in the U.S. for a movie about cricket. In "Sugar" we follow Miguel "Sugar" Santos from a U.S. major league baseball training academy in the Dominican Republic to his move to a small city in Iowa to play minor league ball. We get to know Miguel's family and humble living conditions in the Dominican Republic and then the formidable difficulties he faces in being inserted into a foreign culture where he does not speak the language.
I will never look at foreign-born baseball players the same way after having seen the discipline, arduous training, perseverance, and sacrifices they make to get where they are. And the pressure is ever-present--if you fail there are many others who can and will take your place.
Casting the native Dominican non-actor Algenis Perez Soto as Miguel is a small stroke of genius. He had played some ball (as shortstop) but had to be taught how to pitch for this movie. Perez is such a natural both on and off the field that it's impossible not to be taken by him. He has a great ability to capture emotion with facial expressions. A lot of effort must have gone into the casting, since every role rings true.
Sure, this film makes incisive comments about the immigrant experience in the United States, but, even if you are a baseball fan I think you will learn details you did not know about how the sport recruits many of its players and what they go through. Many are called, but few are chosen, and it's not necessarily clear sailing for the chosen.
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