Over 25 years ago, Major League Baseball began having an influx of players from all across Latin America. At the time, only a few were bilingual and could help those who were not able to communicate with fellow players and coaches.
Today there are far more Hispanic players in the game and the same problem of communication exists. More than 25% of all MLB players in 2017 were Latino and many rely on other veteran Hispanic players to help them communicate.
Free agent Jose Bautista said that he cannot count the times he has seen a player from Latin America develop a reputation that was unfair strictly due to there being a language barrier or differences in culture.
He said that often times he would overhear managers saying a player was stubborn or lazy and was surprised because he knew that baseball meant the world to the player they were talking about. The problem said Bautista is the player did not know what was being asked of him due to the language barrier.
For instance, Bautista says a player may not have known that the manager wanted him to take extra batting practice or to perform a drill in a specific way.
What was not spoken of by Bautista but was obvious during his more than 10-year run with the Toronto Blue Jays was he played the role of mentor in the clubhouse for the team and players.
He was a respected veteran who could communicate in both English and Spanish with ease and became the team’s bridge.
Bautista said that last September he helped to guide Teoscar Hernandez during the young rookies’ call up to the team.
Today every club in MLB employs interpreters and many have coaches who are bilingual. However, those personnel do not have the same experiences or pressure that a fellow teammate does.
Bautista is currently a free agent and will likely not return to play for the Blue Jays. The team traded for veteran second baseman Yangervis Solarte who is bilingual and is considered to have a great deal of respect in the clubhouse.
Houston Astros catcher Brian McCann said it was a 100% must to have a bilingual mentor or fellow player because they are able to bring players together that otherwise cannot communicate.
McCann added that the language barrier in baseball is not just Spanish and English. With the influx of Japanese players to the league, teams are finding it necessary to hire Japanese translators as well.