Add movie mogul to Bobby Valentine’s lengthy resume.
The Boston Red Sox manager is an executive producer of a new documentary on Dominican baseball prospects, ”Ballplayer: Pelotero,” a film that drew criticism from baseball commissioner Bud Selig. And his production company has more pictures in the pipeline, including a flick about the NCAA and one on his famous father-in-law, Ralph Branca.
”We’re hoping to break even,” Valentine said Friday night as he managed in New York for the first time since the Mets fired him after the 2002 season.
”Pelotero,” which runs 72 minutes, followed two prospects as they prepared for the start of the 2009 international signing season that began July 2.
Miguel Angel Sano, a tall shortstop, was trapped because of a lengthy investigation into his age and identity by Major League Baseball. A Pittsburgh scout, Rene Gayo, was caught on a hidden recording offering to make the probe go away if he accepted a $2 million deal from the Pirates. After Sano’s identity and age (16) were documented, he signed with the Minnesota Twins that October for $3.15 million — just more than half the $6 million he was hoping for.
Jean Carlos Batista, a switch-hitting shortstop, turned down Houston’s opening $450,000 offer. MLB then determined his age was falsified to 16 instead of 17 and suspended him for one year, and he wound up signing with the Astros for $200,000 in November 2010.
After hearing about the movie, Selig said he ”expressed our concerns to Red Sox ownership,” adding he thought ”there were a lot of things that were inaccurate.” Since the time the documentary was filmed in 2009, MLB has taken initiatives to curb corruption and reached an agreement with its players’ association on restraints for international signings.
The film makes clear the time period is 2009.
”They made a good film,” said the 62-year-old Valentine, managing in the majors for the first time in a decade. ”Someone looks at this and has been in baseball a while, been in Asia, been in Korea, been in Taiwan, been in Venezuela, it’s the way of the land. You think when I was being signed they didn’t try to tell me some things that weren’t true? Of course.”
And given that the verification process worked, it’s hard to understand why Selig was miffed.
”MLB did a great job of catching one,” Valentine said.
The three directors — Ross Finkel, Trevor Martin and Jon Paley — initially focused on five prospects. They moved to the Dominican Republic for nine months and shot 400-500 hours of video before deciding to narrow it to the pair of players who made the final cut.
”When we started, we were certainly naive about the whole process,” Paley said. ”Three months of editing took two years.”
They ran out of money and turned to Makuhari Media, a company formed by Valentine and Andrew Muscato, a producer of the 2008 ESPN Films documentary ”The Zen of Bobby V” about the manager’s time with Japan’s Chiba Lotte Marines. Valentine and Muscato’s company provided the funds to complete the project, and now the film is in theaters and available on demand from Amazon.com and iTunes.
Planning a follow-up film, the directors are following Sano through the minor leagues and hope to add Batista if they can increase their resources.
Ranked the Twins’ top prospect by Baseball America, Sano is hitting .242 with 20 homers and 70 RBI in 98 games this season at Beloit of the Class-A Midwest League after leading the Appalachian League with 20 home runs last year. He also has 115 strikeouts in 343 at-bats this season.
”He needs to learn the strike zone a little,” Valentine said. ”He thinks he can hit everything now, I guess — like all 19-year-olds do.”
After spending last year in the Gulf Coast League, Batista is hitting .331 with five homers and 25 RBI for Greeneville in the Appalachian League.
A more familiar subject for Valentine is Branca, the Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher who allowed Bobby Thomson’s famous ”Shot Heard `Round the World” to win the 1951 NL pennant for the New York Giants. ”Because of You,” which has been completed but not yet released, talks to the people David Ritz spoke with as he co-authored Branca’s 2011 book, ”A Moment in Time.”
”Have some great footage of him on `Concentration,’ `The Ed Sullivan Show,”’ Valentine said of the former pitcher.
Makuhari also is producing ”Checkmates,” about Princeton students competing at chess against inmates of a maximum-security prison in New Jersey, and Valentine said there is a project involving the National Football League Players Association that is about the NCAA.
A top player before a broken leg in 1973, Valentine also is noted for his ballroom dancing, his cooking skills and his restaurant. He has been a divisive figure in the dugout, picking feuds with the Mets’ Todd Hundley and this year criticizing Boston’s Kevin Youkilis, who was traded to the Chicago White Sox.
Back in the New York area, he made it home to Connecticut on his team’s off day Thursday before heading back to the city because of stormy weather. He enjoys the limelight baseball has in big markets. Heading into their 100th game, the Red Sox were last in the AL East — not what Boston was looking for when Valentine was hired to replace Terry Francona after last year’s September slide.
”What do you not enjoy about New York and Boston and Chicago and LA, the great markets of the United States,” he said, ”where cab drivers and waiters and women walking down the street all know what you’re doing and what you did last night and what you have to do tonight. I think that’s very cool.”
In his movie career, he gets to decide the projects to focus on. In his managerial career, the spotlight finds a way of falling on him.
”When I had the other pinstripes on,” he said, referring to the Mets, ”it was an event every day.”