Three years of managing at the Rookie League level has taught Nestor Corredor how to budget his time.
A 15-minute team meeting? Better allow for 30 minutes.
“It’s 15 minutes in English, 15 minutes in Spanish,” said Corredor, the manager in the inaugural season for the Rocky Mountain Vibes.
Professional baseball clubhouses are home to multiple languages at every level, but in the Rookie League the barriers can be more pronounced because they are new. Signees from Latin America who have previously played only in the Dominican Summer League are embarking on their first season within the United States, and many American players drafted from college or high school are thrust into a multicultural situation for the first time.
It helps that Corredor, a native of Venezuela, speaks English and Spanish; and he says it has been his experience that Spanish-speaking players quickly make strides.
“The good thing about the Latino group is most of them understand English,” Corredor said. “They may not speak it very well, but they understand the language. So, that makes my job easy just to get them used to the English, but I don’t think that will be a problem with the players. They prepare and they are willing to learn.
“It can be a little bit difficult.”
On the field, players quickly develop hand signals to communicate. Infielders point to each other between pitches to confirm where they plan to go with the ball in different situations. Much of the team has been together for about 40 games in spring training.
For those players just added to the fold from last week’s draft there will be many long bus rides, starting with an 8-hour jaunt Thursday from Colorado Springs to Orem, Utah, for Friday’s opener for teammates to play catch-up and develop workarounds to the language differences.
“We can communicate,” said catcher Nick Kahle, a recent draft pick from the University of Washington who said he had only English-speaking teammates with the Huskies. “We know some of the basics.”
Bilingual players like pitcher Steve Pastora become integral in interpreting in social situations.
“It’s nice just to be able to speak different languages because I can hang out with different people,” Pastora said. “And it’s just fulfilling to be able to help out people who don’t really speak the language.
“At the end of the day, there’s baseball, which is the common theme and it’s how we come together. There’s just a baseball language.”
If that’s not enough, there’s always the fake-it-‘till-you-make-it approach. “You see them laughing,” pitcher Paxton Schutz said, “you just kind of laugh along even though you may not know exactly what’s going on.”