'Sugar' Promotional Photo
“Sugar” is the tale of a Dominican baseball player drafted into the American minor leagues. Promotional photo credit Sony Pictures Classics appearing on LATimes.com.


The Los Angeles Times today ran a review of Sugar, a movie about a Dominican minor league baseball player.

Watching the trailer on the movie’s web site, it looks to me like they hit on all the right cylinders. The impoverished conditions in the Dominicans. The minor league complex in Arizona with the English language classes. The culture clash playing in rural America.

Although the film has fictional major and minor league teams, and is rooted in a fictional Iowa town, many of the locations are easily recognizable. The stadium appears to be Quad Cities’ Modern Woodmen Park (known for most of its life as John O’Donnell Stadium). It looks like the Iowa team is wearing the old Swing of the Quad Cities jerseys, the team name before they switched back to River Bandits. (Quad Cities was a longtime Angels minor league affiliate.)

This is the second recently released independent film set in Iowa. 2007’s The Final Season was set in Norway, near Cedar Rapids. It was the true story of a local high school’s final baseball season. Parts of the movie were filmed in the Kernels’ Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Sugar will be hard to find, being an independent film. It’s here in Irvine at the Edwards University. I’ll try to see it this weekend and will post a follow-up once I have.

The next independent film on the baseball horizon is The Perfect Game, about the 1957 Monterrery, Mexico team that won the Little League World Series. The film was supposed to have been released in August 2008 by Lionsgate, but they dropped out of the project. One report says it will be released in Spring 2009.

Angel Macias, the key character in the movie, was later signed by the Angels and invited to their first spring training in 1961 as a 16-year old. When he reached 18, he played briefly in the Angels minor leagues and spent most of his career in the Mexican League.

But that’s another story … The book version is available in print.

UPDATE 7:30 PM PDT — I saw Sugar this afternoon. What a great little film. It’s dead-on perfect when it comes to depicting the typical life of a minor league Dominican player. It brought back a lot of memories.

For those of you in Cedar Rapids, much of the film takes place in Iowa, Quad Cities in particular. The home team is called the “Bridgetown Swing,” but you can see plenty of Davenport and Quad Cities signs in the background. They’re wearing the old Swing jerseys. Opposing teams wear jerseys from other Midwest League clubs — I saw Clinton, Burlington, Wisconsin and Great Lakes, but no Kernels. There’s about thirty seconds of film shot at Burlington over two scenes.

The third act is entirely unexpected. I won’t give it away, but this is not your typical sports film. At first I was disappointed by the ending, but then I realized it was entirely … Dominican.

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