Corruption of the Youth, and Manipulation of the Poor

As a person with a degree in History I love to read books and
watch documentaries.  Documentaries, to me, are the true reality TV.
 Sometimes it is tough to find a real good documentary, but they are out
there.  Some of my favorites are “Waiting for Superman” by Davis
Guggenheim, “9/11” by Gedeon and Jules Naudet and “Civil
War” by Ken Burns.  Although sometimes documentaries can be so far
off base that it makes it painful to watch, such as “Fahrenheit 9/11”
and “Michael Moore Hates America”, where the film makers agenda takes
precedent over the facts and the truth is distorted.  Also as a person who
has been involved in coaching youth sports for almost 25 years, I have a
special place for sports documentaries and that’s why I love the 30 for 30
series on ESPN, mainly because it is depicts stories that I grew up.
As I was browsing
my online Netflix account the other day to watch something while I did some
application testing for work I came across a documentary called
“Ballplayer: Pelotero”.  It is a documentary about the
increasing number of baseball players from the Dominican Republic and what they
go through to get signed by Major League Baseball teams.  It was done very
well and shows the poverty that these young players come from and the pressure
that is on them to sign the big contract so they can pull their family from
poverty.  It also shows the corruption, manipulation and downright dirty
business there is in the Dominican Republic, where it has been declared the
Wild West as far amateur baseball is concerned.
The 1962 San
Francisco Giants had four players on its roster that were from the Dominican
Republic in which they paid a total $5,000 to play.  One happened to be
Hall of Famer Juan Marichal and he led them to the World Series crown that
year.  In the 1980’s Major League teams began to sink millions of dollars
into the Dominican Republic by increasing their scouting staffs and building
training facilities on the island to be able to pick up the next big star.
 Twenty percent of professional baseball players are from the Dominican
Republic, that’s a country with a population which equates to two percent of
The United States of America.
Major League
Baseball instituted a rule that no team can sign a player from the Dominican
until he is 16 years of age, and they cannot sign until July 2 of that year.
 So they need to be 16 on July 2.  If a player does not sign when
they are 16 then the chances of them sign a lucrative deal are slim, if signing
at all.  This leads to players families falsifying birth records,
identities and injecting their children with Human Growth Hormones (HGH) to be
ready to sign that deal when they are 16 years of age.  This has led Major
League Baseball to have an investigation office right on the island.
The documentary
follows two young players who go to two different baseball academies where
coaches are training players for the pros.  The first player was Jean
Carlos Batista who is being trained by Astin Jacobo and the second is Miguel
Angel Sano, who is considered the best player in the Dominican and will command
the largest bonus signing in the history of the island.  Sano is trained
by Moreno Tejada.  The movie follows these boys through their training and
shows the poverty their families come from.  There is major buzz about
Sano, scouts are constantly surrounding him.
It was easy for me
to determine that the corruption and manipulation of these players and their
families would come from these trainers.  The documentary shows that both
trainers are pretty straight laced and are a clueless to the process as the
players.  The trainers don’t receive money until the player’s sign, so it
is in the best interest that these trainers are as rule abiding as the player.
A couple months
before the signing deadline a scout from the Pittsburgh Pirates organization,
as it turned out, gave a false tip to MLB Investigations on Sano’s age, which
would eventually drive the price down for the young star.  Sano and his
family were put through the ringer, blood tests, urine tests, bone density
tests.  They organized all the papers that proved his correct age and that
it still wasn’t enough.  According, to Sano’s family member, MLB told Sano
to sign with the Pirates and the investigation would close.  The family
later videotaped the scout from the Pirates and got him saying they need him to
get this to go away.
With all this
going on it was Batista that lied about his age.  Apparently his father
had changed his age when he was 10 years old, right before he died.
 Batista continued to claim his innocence and blamed his dead father for
making a mistake, and blaming it on his illness.  It led to a falling out
with his trainer and a lawsuit for monies spent on Batista after he served his
suspension mandated by the MLB.
This was a
powerful documentary, not as powerful of the ones I mentioned at the beginning,
but powerful enough to understand what goes on behind the scenes.  The
system that has been created by the MLB which has created this monster.
 Forcing kids to lie about who they are and do things to their body to
better their family’s situation.  The one thing that the movie did not
mention was schooling, it did not say whether they were attending school or
not.  It does say they had attended at one point, but once they started
training for their Major League careers it’s not even discussed.
I recommend this
movie to anyone who likes documentaries.  It is a true documentary about
what goes behind the scenes of America’s past-time.  Major League Baseball
needs to fix this situation or we are going to see 12 year old kids pumping up
on steroids looking for the next big pay check.  They need to work with
the MLB Players Union to institute and International Draft.  Over the past
few years it’s been the bidding on the International Players that has demanded
the most money, while young prospects in the United States are required to
enter the MLB Draft and then negotiate with only the team that owns their
Pelotero.  Check it out.
If you don’t take
it from me, ask my wife.

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