One of the biggest changes in my life since getting involved with minor league baseball is being around so many players whose first language is Spanish. It began four years ago, Baseball Ross met our first son, Feliberto Sanchez.
Sanchez was in the Gulf Coast league, rookie ball. Those games take place at noon in the summer. It’s hot. It’s very hot. Combine that with being in the middle of a work day and that they are not promoted in any way and it leads to having may be 6-7 non-players watching the games, you tend to get to know the players, at least enough to say hello.
No one sits on the bleachers, aluminum bleachers at noon in the Florida sun is ridiculous, so everyone stands in the shade along the side of the Paul Owens building.
That day, Ross had gone alone to the game and was standing along the building when a young man, Sanchez, said in a heavy accent, “you want a seat?”
Ross wasn’t sure what he said so he just nodded and minutes later, Sanchez brought two stools from the locker room and said, “you sit here, friend,” and that was how it all began.
Sanchez turned out to be an amazing learner, taking advantage of the English classes that the Phillies offered. The team provides English classes to the players who need them.
After becoming friends with him, I helped him with his English, he helped me with my Spanish. I later added Rosetta Stone to help further my learning.
Fast forward a few years and while I’m not fluent, I can understand a lot more and much to the players’ amazement, I can speak to them in their native language.
One of the highlights this year, after the usual greeting of “Hola! Como estas?” (Hello! How are you?) I added, “Es bueno verte!” (It’s good to see you!)
The look on my friend’s face as it lit up made the hard work worthwhile. While it is important to help them learn English, making the effort to learn theirs makes them more comfortable in trying to speak mine.
I’ve learned so much and I have to admit one of my greatest pleasures is when some of my friends try to describe something in Spanish and I understand it and surprise them by helping them out. I love the look on their faces. It’s the best way to learn for everyone.
So baseball is a bridge to learning languages and making friends.