Rays players take initiative to learn Spanish

Rays players take initiative to learn Spanish

Rays players take initiative to learn Spanish
ARLINGTON -- The Reds have started offering Rosetta Stone packages to any of their players interested in learning Spanish, with the notion that they could communicate with their Latino teammates better in Spanish.

"I think it's great," said Carlos Pena of the Reds' idea. "It promotes team unity, everybody being on the same page. I think it's very smart."

The Rays haven't extended a similar offer to their players, but like the idea of developing better communication inside their clubhouse.

Joel Peralta, who hails from the Dominican Republic, recalled how difficult day-to-day living was for him when he first started playing professional baseball and did not speak English.

"It was really, really bad," said Peralta, who now speaks English well. "I couldn't order food. I couldn't go places I wanted to go. I mean, I have always had to rely on somebody else to get what I wanted. It would have been nice to have [English-speaking] teammates who could also talk Spanish."

Peralta said Latino players appreciate the effort when they see their English counterparts trying to learn Spanish.

"Not only do we appreciate their effort, but it's good for them, too," Peralta said. "[Evan] Longoria and B.J. Upton, they've been learning Spanish."

Longoria liked the Reds' idea.

"I think it's really cool," Longoria said. "I mean, shoot, we could go out and get [Rosetta Stone] ourselves, so I would never ask the club to do it. But that would be awesome if more clubs were involved in teaching the players that wanted to learn, the players that were interested in learning. I think that would be pretty cool."

Longoria has been working on his Spanish, with Pena serving as a mentor.

"Knowing how to speak Spanish is a valuable tool," Longoria said. "I thought about getting Rosetta Stone, but we've got Carlos, he's a great teacher. It is pretty cool to have somebody who is willing to teach you and then kind of interact."

Longoria said he has hardly mastered the language, but Pena gives the Rays' third baseman more credit.

"He's actually very impressive," Pena said. "He's got great pronunciation and a willingness to learn."

Longoria has received positive reactions from Latino players when he has tried to communicate with them in their native tongue.

"It's funny to see the players on the other teams when you can have just a simple conversation, a 'Hey how are you?' And they say, 'I didn't know you spoke Spanish.' Or, 'You sound like your accent is very good, like you've been practicing.' That's pretty cool. It definitely is like a sign of respect. Or a sign that you care about their culture and it's not just an American game."

Joe Maddon has Rosetta Stone on his computer and he said that on the surface "it's a great idea."

"Giving it to somebody is one thing, it's another thing to use it," Maddon said. "It's not easy to study another language, but I think it's a great attempt.

"When it comes down to learning another language, it's not easy to do. You have to be committed to doing it. And you have to be truly interested in it, because it's not easy to do. And that's why I really respect the Latin kids that speak English well, because I know how difficult that is."