Twins' minor-league star Sano at center of hot movie

The disputed documentary "Ballplayer: Pelotero" examines exploitation of Dominican players.


Beloit Snappers third baseman Miguel Sano headed to the locker room after beating the Burlington Bees at Pohlman Field in Beloit, Wisc. Friday June 15, 2012. The Snappers are the Class A Midwest League Affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.

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For local baseball fans, the release of the documentary "Ballplayer: Pelotero" on Friday is an opportunity to learn more about third baseman Miguel Sano, the top prospect in the Twins' organization.

The rest of the baseball world, however, is abuzz for other reasons. The documentary -- produced by Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine -- has sparked some controversy.

Filmmakers traveled to the Dominican Republic in 2009 and spent nine months following the paths of two young players with major league dreams. One was Sano; the other was shortstop Jean Carlos Batista, now in the Houston Astros organization.

International players can sign at age 16, and some have switched identities or lied about their age to get big bonuses.

Sano said he was asked to admit that he was 19 going on 20, and the family asserts during the film that Rene Gayo, the Pirates director of Latin American scouting, tried to reduce the bonus Sano could get by claiming he was older than 16.

"Whatever," Sano said at one point during the film. "I'm gonna make it anyway."

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig addressed the film in a meeting with the Baseball Writers Association of America during the All-Star weekend.

"I was told by others in the office that it was unfair, it was inaccurate, and so I guess it's been written, so I'll say it," Selig said. "I expressed our concerns to Red Sox ownership [since Valentine produced it], and that was it. What they did from there is up to them."

The league cracked down on identity fraud in 2010, after the filming. And MLB apparently wants to forget about anything that happened before that.

Jon Paley, who directed the documentary along with Ross Finkel and Trevor Martin, said they have tried to speak with MLB on numerous occasions but can't get an audience.

"We did approach them and they tried to discredit the film, saying it is irrelevant, out of date and inaccurate," Paley said. "They've never addressed what they think is inaccurate in the film. They have never given us specifics about what they think is defamatory or what they think is incorrect. Until they actually address the film, we don't think their statements have any credibility."

Sano, after extensive testing, had his identity verified but his age couldn't be verified or proven wrong. Teams could sign him at their own risk, and the Twins inked him to a $3.15 million deal. He currently is at Class A Beloit, batting .246 with 18 homers and 61 RBI, but has committed 31 errors.

"Miguel is a great kid," Paley said. "He's a goofball, he's a fun kid, he's really friendly and he loves playing baseball more than anything in the world."

The documentary runs through Thursday via the Film Society of Minneapolis St. Paul, which has screenings at the St. Anthony Main Theater.

Staff writer Joe Christensen contributed to this report.

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