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Spanish translators assist Major League Baseball

  • Diego Ettedgui. (Foto de Twitter)

 

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) — In a game against with the rival New York Yankees in 2014, Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell strolled out of his dugout to alert the umpire to a foreign substance on Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda's neck. When the substance turned out to be pine tar, Pineda was not only ejected but also suspended for 10 games. Facing a swarm of reporters, Pineda, who is a native Spanish-speaker born in the Dominican Republic, struggled to answer questions.

     The incident irked teammate Carlos Beltran, who thought a translator should have accompanied Pineda, who couldn't find the English words he needed to explain himself.

     Beltran knew that with almost 200 players from Spanish-speaking countries in the major leagues, it wasn't an isolated incident. So he pressured the Major League Baseball Players Association, which in turn approached Major League Baseball, to provide Spanish language translators.

     After launching a one-year pilot program in 2016 in which translators were hired for every team, MLB agreed to continue the program for five years.

     No team has benefited more from the program than the Philadelphia Phillies, whose roster is among the most reliant on Latino players. And no one has been happier to have it than utility infielder Andres Blanco. Before fellow Venezuelan Diego Ettedgui joined the team last year as translator, interpreting duties often fell to Blanco, one of a dozen or so native Spanish speakers who have been on the roster this season.

     Blanco eventually became fluent but struggled with English for a long time after breaking into minor league baseball 15 years ago. "Pretty much it's in the clubhouse or when coaches talk or the media asks you something, that's when we make the most mistakes," Blanco said.

     One wrong word is all it takes to confuse a reporter or run into a mix-up with a question, he said. And sometimes, what gets lost in translation can be embarrassing. For example, when Blanco was with the Kansas City Royals' Double A team, he thought the manager told him he could report to the field in flip-flops but realized his mistake when the rest of the team showed up in dress shoes.

     For reliever Edubray Ramos, a mistranslation was more costly. While playing for Single-A Clearwater, the Venezuelan-born pitcher was told by a coach to throw a fastball outside. He did what he thought the coach had said and threw a fastball — down the middle, surrendering a home run.

Global baseball

     Baseball's popularity in Latin America has swelled the number of Spanish-speaking players to nearly 30 percent, MLB statistics show. That's a far cry from the post-World War II era when only 1 percent of players primarily spoke Spanish, according to the Society for American Baseball Research. By the late 1990s, the language barrier had become such a problem that MLB started offering classes in English as a second language in 1997, with the teams' covering the costs. Those classes are ongoing.

As players learn the language, new players join the ranks from places such as the Dominican Republic, where all MLB teams have baseball academies, and Venezuela. Those two countries contribute the greatest number of players, about 170 altogether this season. Until 2016, teams relied on Spanish-speaking coaches and players to translate.

     Ettedgui believes the number of Latino players in baseball has skyrocketed largely because children see people from their hometowns, such as Ozzie Guillen, Andres Galarraga and Omar Vizquel, make it big. "A lot of these guys come from nothing, they barely had food at home, sometimes they didn't have a father figure and when they watched TV they (saw) people like them who have succeeded," Ettedgui said.

 

 

 

Issue Month: 
Wednesday, October 18, 2017