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'Sugar' chronicles young Dominican's big league bid

(Credit: Watchdog)

"Sugar," opening Friday at four Manhattan theaters and later more widely, depicts a fictional, aspiring Dominican pitcher named Miguel (Sugar) Santos, played by Algenis Perez Soto.

Do not see it expecting a standard, Disney-esque sports movie.

Its pace is unhurried, half of it is in Spanish (with English subtitles) and it does not end with the dramatic climax of the customary "big game."

"We wanted to avoid the usual sports movie clichés," co-writer/director Ryan Fleck said.

"What interested us was not the guy who becomes Sammy Sosa or Pedro Martinez. We felt like there are hundreds of other guys who go though the same journey every year. We wanted to go through what happens to those guys."

Said Anna Boden, the other writer/director: "We’ve seen the rags-to-riches story before. We wanted to show people a story they hadn’t seen."The story takes Santos from a Dominican baseball academy to a Single-A town in Iowa, where he gets a crash course in a new culture and language while trying to advance up the baseball ladder.

It is a sweet-natured, small-scale story, one presumably with limited mass market appeal.

"If you make a movie inexpensively enough, you don’t need your movie to be 'Mall Cop,'" Boden said. "You don’t need it to appeal to everyone. You just hope it appeals to enough people."

The filmmakers discovered it was easier to find young Dominican baseball players than young Dominican actors, so they cast Soto then helped him with acting.

The baseball scenes - as well as the cultural vibe - rang true with viewers who should know, including Sammy Sosa, Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz, Robinson Cano and Hanley Ramirez, who attended the premiere in the Dominican Republic in November. (Jose Rijo served as a baseball consultant.)

"Sports fans have come up to us and say it’s the most right-on sports movie and authentic movie that they've seen," Boden said.

Tags: baseball

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