After almost passing on role, failed baseball prospect shines in Sugar
The Americans on the other end of the line told the Dominican infielder that -- out of the hundreds they'd scouted -- he was The One. They told him that he would travel to the United States, that he would have his shot at potential fame, possible fortune. As a kid growing up on the outskirts of the baseball mecca of San Pedro de Macorís,
But there was one problem: After moviemakers
"I really wasn't interested," Pérez Soto said of when his older brother,
Impressed with his expressive eyes and ballplayer's body, they handed him a scene and asked him to return the next day. That night Pérez Soto studied the scene, one in which Miguel asks a Puerto Rican carpenter who has come to his aid who his favorite baseball player is.
"Is that the best you can do?" Pérez Soto recited from the page.
But as he read through the lines, soon it wasn't just Miguel asking that question of the carpenter, it was Pérez Soto asking that of himself. By the end of the night, he'd committed not just his lines to memory, but himself to the project. "I went to the audition with another mind," he says. "I was already getting involved in this. In that moment, I wanted to be in this."
When he arrived the next day for his second audition, Boden and Fleck -- who earned critical acclaim for their debut film,
Convinced that they'd found their Miguel, Boden called Pérez Soto to tell him what she thought was the good news. What she heard on the other end of the phone, however, was a quiet, seemingly disinterested acceptance. "I was excited, but I was skeptical," Pérez Soto says. "I don't want to get so excited so that they could call me back and say, 'Oh, sorry, we found another guy. Sorry about that.' "
On the Third World island, many promises are as empty as wallets. Pérez Soto didn't expect a thing. But when the film crew showed up, cameras in tow, the former aspiring baseball player with zero acting experience was memorizing his lines, and in some cases, improving them. Boden, Fleck and Pérez Soto went through the script, line by line, to ensure that the language matched a 19-year-old Dominican's linguistic tendencies. "For example," Pérez Soto says referencing some of the movie's Spanish dialogue, "a boy like [Miguel] doesn't use the word bonita, we say 'heavy.' "
It isn't just improvements in language but conveyance of emotion where Pérez Soto shines. With his heavy-lidded eyes, he communicates the cultural dislocation Miguel feels when shipped off to Single-A ball in Iowa and the wide-eyed amazement at the discovery of the hotel minibar and adult movies on-demand.
The same attention to detail that Boden and Fleck paid to exacting the language of the film, they paid the precision of the game. They enlisted the help of 1990 World Series MVP
Pérez Soto eventually mastered Miguel's biting curve --
"Now this is my dream to become an actor," he says.
He doesn't have any projects in the works, but his understated performance has garnered unanimous praise, even from some of the toughest critics. "
But for a prospect who never made it, baseball may not have offered a second chance, but life offered a second act.