Someone asks why he has the name ‘Sugar’. His friends josh him – he’s too fond of puddings. He tells them it’s because he throws such a sweet curve ball. Sugar is pretty confident, but not at all arrogant. He knows he has talent, and he’s on course, signed up by the Kansas City Knights academy.
There’s a long way to go. Sugar is Dominican and the academy is on the island. Returning home at the weekend from the neat manicured grounds, he’s already a celebrity in his village – kids crowd him for unwanted baseballs or gloves. With his signing-on fee he’s built a bigger kitchen for his family and a separate room for his grandma. The next step is the big one – will the Knights sign him up to pitch for one of their minor league affiliate teams in the US?
Sugar is more than a sports film with convincing on-the-field action. It’s about the experience of a migrant who is coming of age. It’s about the American Dream and competitiveness and simple human values. There’s a lovely scene where a worldly-wise waitress shows him what scrambled eggs are so he can order more than toast, the only item on the menu that he knows the word for.
The non-professional cast, many with a background in minor-league baseball, is very good, especially Algenis Pérez Soto as Sugar. The script is nigglingly unclear at a key point in the story but the film is ambitious, convincingly reaches beyond baseball, and has great spirit and humanity.