For us in Latin America, it’s always common to say or think about why there isn’t more assistance provided for Spanish-speaking players. They often leave their native countries for the first time as teenagers without translators to accompany them during their adventures in the United States, a luxury that does exist for players who come from Japan, South Korea and elsewhere in the eastern hemisphere.
The Miami Marlins are doing the next-best thing. They are trying to become the first bilingual professional sports organization in the world, as education coordinator Emily Glass and lead teacher Pamela Mejía de Rodríguez explained earlier this week. The two of them led a presentation on bilingual player development and education at Global C.R.E.D. 2020 (Credentialing and Recognizing Excellence and Determination).
“We teach Spanish and English to all of our players in the minor leagues throughout our professional baseball team,” Glass said during the video conference which was livestreamed on YouTube. “The key for our work is we teach Spanish and English to empower our players, to thrive in a globalized world, and to serve one another…in the whole organization.”
According to the presentation, 95 of 214 players in the Marlins organization (44.4%) are from Latin American countries. Their major league roster and MiLB affiliate rosters include representatives from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, México, Venezuela, Colombia, and Puerto Rico. The Marlins want them to have the language and life skills to be able to adapt to a new culture, both during and after their playing careers.
“Since we started this program, you can see the locker room more integrated,” Mejía de Rodriguez said. “People just talk to each other, they know each other, and even when they’re in the offseason they keep texting and communicating with each other. That makes us proud as a teacher because the work we’re doing is actually having an impact.”
The Marlins are observing a wide range of benefits from this program:
- Improves relationships and communication
- Improves team performance
- Faster adaptation
- Players perform with more confidence
- Create empathy among the team
Towards the end of the presentation, they played a video featuring Marlins outfielders JJ Bleday and Víctor Mesa Jr. and infielder Nic Ready. Each prospect spoke in their second language—Bleday and Ready in Spanish, Mesa in English—about how the education program has helped them.
“A bilingual education system is really the glue that holds all of our standards together,” Glass said. “It of course affects our ability to communicate, our communication skills.”
“It also affects [the players’] identity formation,” she continued. “It affects their values and self-awareness, their ability to think critically, their culture of development as young men in the Miami Marlins that are ready to win, compete, and serve the communities. Our bilingual education program is something we’re really proud of.”