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Baseball is played competitively all over the world, and many of those players grow up with the same dream: to one day play the game they love professionally. For most of them, that dream is to play in the MLB.
Because the game is so popular worldwide, the MLB is a diverse league consisting of 256 international players from 20 different countries. Some of those players only came to the United States for the opportunity to play in the MLB, so many of them do not speak English.
22 year-old Atlanta Braves outfielder Cristian Pache, born in the Dominican Republic, falls into this category of players in the MLB who do not speak fluent English. Pache’s most recent interview that could be located on the internet took place eight months ago and shows him using a translator.
It is likely that Pache knows simple words and is able to form simple sentences in English, but his use of a translator during interviews proves that he cannot speak the language fluently which is understandable for a player who has spent less than five years in the United States.
Are Non-English-Speaking Players Uncommon in the MLB?
It is not uncommon for an international player to not speak any English at all when they enter the league.
In fact, it is so common that, as of 2016, the league requires all teams to hire spanish language translator since nearly a quarter of the players in the MLB are native spanish speakers.
Many players of latin descent admit that the transition to an English speaking league was tough before the league required translators. In an article for wearemitu.com, Carlos Beltran, a native of Puerto Rico, recalls how difficult it was for him at the beginning of his career:
“When I was coming up through the Royals’ minor league system, a lot of people thought I was introverted. . . Maybe my teammates were great people, great human beings, but I didn’t get to meet them because of the language barrier.”
Like many international players who play in the MLB for several years, Beltran eventually grasped the language enough to speak it somewhat fluently. Still, he and other latino players are thankful that Major League Baseball now requires a Spanish translator for every team.
Some other notable retired players who did not speak English upon entering the league include Ichiro Suzuki, Vladimir Guerrero Sr., Mariano Rivera, Roberto Clemente, and many more.
Current players who do not speak English are Vladimir Guerrerro Sr., Shohei Ohtani, Ronald Acuna Jr., as well as others who came to the league from a non-English-speaking country.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are MLB teams required to have translators for other foreign languages?
The league only requires Spanish to English translators which you may think leaves Korean, Japanese, and other non-English speaking out to dry. However, these players typically negotiate translation services into their contract.
Are translators allowed to translate during games?
Yes, translators are allowed to help translate during games. This came after the 2016 decision to require Spanish to English translators when Spanish-speaking players were often upset that Japanese and Korean-speaking players, who had their own personal translators, were allowed to have translation services during mound visits.