No 'Sugar'-coating the truth about pro ball

by Greg in

The boys who show up on the Cape each summer in hopes of catching the eye of a Major League scout will increasingly compete not just with top American college players but with the top players in the world.

This American game of ourse is becoming more and more international.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has said professional baseball will move to a world draft by 2012. That means the player from Tulane is no longer competing just with the player from Miami.  They are both competing for spots on pro rosters with players from everywhere in the world.

A few days ago there were reports that Selig, envisions a "true World Series," one played between the MLB's champ and the Japanese champ. Afterall, the Japanese have won both World Baseball Classics.

But it is the Dominican Republic that produces the most Major Leaguers after the United States.  According to Baseball Almanac the DR has produced more players over history than 44 other states in the U.S. and more than any other country including Japan.

This weekend I watched the 2008 film Sugar which explores the story of Dominican players who are raised in the Major League baseball academies with the hope of making it out of poverty and into the Big Leagues.

A few writers, cynical about feel-good baseball movies like Field of Dreams and The Natural, have called Sugar the best baseball film because of its sense of truth and realism. I love the romantic baseball film, but I also enjoyed Sugar very much because it holds no punches -- it shows you how it really is to make in pro ball.

I won't spoil the ending, but the film is based on the fictional story of Miguel "Sugar" Santos. (Azucar Santos en Espanol). He learns a devastating knuckle curve in the Kansas City baseball academy in the Dominican Republic and is invited to spring training in Arizona where he eventually is assigned to the Single-A affiliate in Iowa.

After some initial success, he declines and the film takes a twist from there.

The movie is both inspirational and cautionary. When you are a top prospect on the Cape, or in a Dominican baseball academy, shoot for the moon but be prepared for life after baseball.

Sugar is bittersweet but a must for any fan of baseball before the Bigs.