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Sugar revives baseball from film purgatory.

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Sugar, sugar.
You are my candy girl,
And you got me wanting you.

I just can’t believe the loveliness
Of loving you.
(I just can’t believe it’s true).

-The Archies

In the twenty years since the release of Field of Dreams, no baseball film has done as good a job capturing the reason why we, a nation raised on baseball and apple pie, love the sport so much.

The best baseball flick since Field of Dreams and Bull Durham.1999’s For Love of the Game almost did it, but we could have certainly done without all those romantic interludes. 2002’s The Rookie also came close, but ultimately fell short of the mark because it was aimed at a younger audience.

But with Sugar, the gut punching, this-is-why-a-pitch-means-everything baseball movie is back.

Sugar is not your typical baseball film. It’s unapologetically honest, without a Hollywood ending or a scene that leaves you gasping for breath. It’s painstakingly intricate and real, the primary aspects of the baseball movie genre that have been missing for a decade.

Chronicling the fictional life of Dominican Republic-born pitcher Miguel “Sugar” Santos and his rise through the fictional Kansas City Knights organization, Sugar depicts the seldom thought about side of baseball: the hardships and obstacles facing a gifted, foreign-born young man trying to free himself and his family from poverty while simultaneously pursuing a storybook career.

The scenes where Sugar is on the mound often take a backseat to the unseen, less public, moments. When he’s talking to his mother on the phone while she’s in the Dominican, unable to see his newfound American way of life. Or when his control wanders and he’s forced to haphazardly journey to the darkside of today’s pharmacological brand of baseball.

Even the most poignant, heart wrenching scene takes place as far from the mound as possible: in a diner a waitress explains the difference between “sunny-side up” and “scrambled” eggs. It may not seem like the right moment to shed a tear, but in that one moment, there’s so much hope and so much goodwill.

When one considers that roughly 10 percent of major and minor league players are born in the Dominican Republic, the film takes on a whole new life. The players that now sport designer suits and big salaries worked hard to get where they are, often sacrificing parts of themselves and relationships to do so.

Sugar will open eyes, cause them to quiver, and then shut them as viewers think about another small aspect of this game we all love.


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