The Republic of Baseball

Over the past five years I have been privileged to have been part of a
great project involving the Dominican Republic, baseball and
film.  Two members of the Board of Directors of the Sports for Development Foundation,
the not-for-profit that I founded, Daniel Manatt and Robert Ruck, have
led the charge, along with Jose Mota, Christa Alou and Bret Granato, to
produce a documentary film titled The Republic of Baseball: Dominican Giants of the American Game, which is set to premiere this Sunday at 6:00 PM at the San Diego Latin Film Festival. 

As a production of the Sports for Development Foundation and Manatt
Media LLC, this film details the experiences of the first
generation of Dominican players to play in the major leagues in the
United States.  It is a story that might surprise some viewers
when the state of today’s game is examined in comparison.  When
Felipe Alou and his brothers Jesus and Matty, Ozzie Virgil and Manny
Mota broke into the game, racism in the form of Jim Crow laws was at
every turn.  Lumped in with black players, the Dominican players
who today are the respected, elder statesmen of the game were a half a century
ago misunderstood and insulted by the public and their fellow
players.  Their first years in the big leagues were a trial by
fire, and this film makes all of us viewers understand their story in
ways never told before.

The difficulties that these first Dominican players faced 50 years ago
are not totally gone.  Clubhouses in baseball are still mostly
divided by language and sometimes by color, and for even the most
talented Dominicans who arrive in the US, there are tremendous hurdles
of culture, language and ignorance to break down.

But this premiere in the midst of the final games of the first ever World Baseball Classic
should be seen as a shining tribute to those players who paved the
way.  As the film gets more and more exposure, I hope that it
helps more Americans understand the history of the Dominican Republic,
that country’s deep ties and passion for baseball, and the strength and
dignity of its first ambassadors in major league baseball.

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