The language barrier in baseball can lead to some funny stories involving young players.
Juan Castro remembers his first year in big-league camp with the Los Angeles Dodgers. "My first time in Dodgertown," Castro said, "I came out and a group of guys from the Dominican were talking. I listened. I asked Henry Blanco, the catcher, what language they were speaking. He said, 'Spanish, man.' They talk very fast. You've got to get used to it."
A reporter was doing a survey with Wily Mo Pena. The question was "Who has the biggest ego in baseball?" Pena didn't know the word ego. The reporter tried to explain. "You know, who has the biggest head?" Pena didn't hesitate. "Aaron Harang." Harang is a very humble guy, though he does have a large head.
Former Red Jacob Cruz told the story of a Mexican player going to McDonald's. The player ordered fries. "Ketchup?" the counter girl asked. "No, I play first base," the player responded.
Here's the full article:
Players in a strange land
Foreign-born Reds face extra challenges
BY JOHN FAY / JFAY@ENQUIRER.COM
Developing a prospect into a major-league player is difficult enough. When you enter a language barrier into the equation, it becomes much more difficult.
Players from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Venezuela make up a huge percentage of major league rosters. Nearly all of the players from those countries sign as teen-agers. Most speak no English when they are signed.
Juan Castro, who speaks flawless English now, spoke none when he attended his first spring training in 1991.
"It was very hard," Castro said. "I remember I didn't speak any English at all. I felt like I was deaf. I honestly wanted to go back to Mexico. I didn't understand anybody. I've got coaches coming to tell me things. I didn't know what to do. That was one of the things that inspired me to learn the language faster."
Edwin Encarnacion, a native of the Dominican Republic, had the advantage of going to high school in Puerto Rico, where he took English classes.
But he was far from fluent when he was sent to Port Charlotte, Fla., as a 17-year-old in 2000 to play for the Texas Rangers' Gulf Coast League team.
"I spoke a little bit," he said. "But it's hard when you don't know English. You don't understand when you've got meetings what they say."
Encarnacion was more fluent than a lot of his teammates.
"I knew a little bit, a couple of sentences," he said. "When we'd go to a restaurant, I ordered for the Latin guys because I knew more English than the others."
Playing baseball is the easy part.
"When you go to the field, you don't have to speak the language, you have to play the game," Encarnacion said. "But when they give the play or sign, it's hard to understand. You don't know what they try to tell you."
New closer Francisco Cordero, 32, took Latin players, particularly young pitchers (and fellow Dominicans) Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez, under his wing this spring.
"He's very good with the young Latins," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He knows what's going on."