By: Danniel P’Lopez
When Fidel Castro ruled Cuba in the early 1960s, John F. Kennedy kept Cuba under economic sanctions. As part of those economic sanctions, it was illegal for major league baseball teams to recruit and sign Cuban players, so, Cuban players had to leave their homeland and establish residency outside of Cuba.
The Last Out is a documentary about this very subject as it follows four Cuban baseball players who all dream of becoming major league players in the United States. Four individuals, (Happy Oliveros, Reynier Oliveros, Carlos Gonzalez and Victor Baro) travel to Ecuador, then up to Costa Rica where they to train to reach these dreams.
Gus Dominguez, a Cuban-American and a baseball agent, is scouting and recruiting these men to get signed to major American Leagues. Gus Dominguez and other agents are in charge of making sure these young men have food and shelter and the opportunity to thrive until they are either signed or forced to find other paths. ‘In the major leagues you have to have big balls and also a big heart,’ one coach says to another.
These four players seem to have just that, but there are many struggles and broken hopes. One says his co-players become like brothers, but another says many times he didn’t have anything to eat, or a nice place to sleep. You learn about their history and family (all have the same dream) and why they wanted to play baseball since they were kids.
Twenty-seven MLB scouts evaluate the players, some of the players are more favorited than others, based on team playing but are the coaches looking out for the players or for themselves? Gus Dominguez says that he is trying to get a 20-million-dollar deal for these guys, however Gus Dominguez gets 20% for signing a player. But he also has a five-year history of being in prison for trying to smuggle Cuban baseball players.
There is resentment towards Dominguez, but Dominguez maintains that he tried to help and get them signed even for contracts much lower than $20 million, but Dominguez says they are worth much more. Not all dreams come true, however, the four men do find other paths. Like Happy Oliveros was one of the last to qualify for US residency under the ‘Wet foot, dry foot’ an immigration policy for Cubans that President Obama eventually ended in 2017.
The Last Out, is a great documentary showing the daily lives and the issues these four baseball players go through on a daily basis to become what they want in life, The American Dream.
Directed and written by Michael Gassert and Sami Kahn, you can watch The Last Out on PBS.