Going into the screening, I didn't expect to see anything too divergent from the standard format most sports films tend to take. Knowing it was the story of a Dominican player, Miguel "Sugar" Santos, and his journey to the states, it was fairly easy to assume this was the tale of a young man's rise from anonymity to stardom, but it was anything but.
Sugar is much less a film about baseball, and much more a film about people. As American baseball fans most of us hardly tend to take notice of the inordinate amounts of players shuffled in and out of the sport throughout college, the minor leagues, and the majors. Even more so, I think we tend to dehumanize the players involved. But Sugar goes a long way to remind us why we shouldn't. It gives a story and a face to put on the experiences that so many young men have gone through, but up until now have gone largely untold.
As baseball increasingly becomes a truly global sport (as evidenced by the solid whipping the U.S. tends to take in the WBC) more and more players are being shipped here in hopes of achieving the dream of making it big. But what is it like when they get here? Thousands and thousands of miles away from home. Struggling to assimilate to a culture they know almost nothing about. Trying to get through day to day activities while barely speaking the language. These young players are not only facing the pressure of trying to make it to the big leagues, but the pressure of everyone back at home counting on them, and perhaps most of all, the immense pressure of surviving when their world has been turned completely upside down. This film allows us to follow Miguel through the process, and to truly identify with what he is facing.
So if you like sports movies only for the times you get to see a stodgy lawyer lead a rag-tag team to the league championship, or for when a washed up quarterback helps his fellow prison inmates regain their self-respect, then Sugar might not be the movie for you. But if you are a true baseball fan, do yourself a favor and check it out. You'll get to see a film that doesn't dismiss its hero as just a player, but shows what it's like to be the person underneath the uniform. And you'll enjoy a look into part of the baseball world you'd otherwise probably never even have balked at (cheesy baseball pun aside).