HELENA — Baseball isn’t just America’s pastime; it’s a worldwide game.
Need an example? Just listen to the players. Pro teams, even here in Montana, are a melting pot of languages and home countries.
It’s a positive for the game, but a problem when it comes to communication, so the Helena Brewers have been doing something about it, holding English classes for some of their Spanish-speaking players to help them gain an understanding of how to communicate here in the United States.
“That would be of vast importance for them and benefit,” said Lewis & Clark Literacy Council volunteer Jonathan Popoli. “And from a standpoint of, let’s say they stay here, let’s say they move to another team, let’s say you go home, maybe say you want to move on, there is always opportunities when you know English or when you know another language. Maybe it helps you learn your own language better. But you need to know those things when you’re here. That’s just one of the facts of the United States and especially, you know, baseball in general.”
This is no walk in the ballpark for these guys. It requires the same kind of dedication and practice that it takes to make it on a pro team.
“I think that the verbs is more hard that, it’s a lot of things to learn,” Brewers catcher Jose Sibrian said.
“English is an extremely difficult language to learn, coming from their background,” said Popoli. “And at the same point, I just try to take it from a standpoint of making it a little more relaxing, let them go at their flow. Some guys want to be involved, some guys don’t, that’s OK. As long as they make an effort to hear it and kind of try.”
Effort is never a problem with these athletes — whether it’s on the field or in the classroom.
“Yeah, they help me a lot,” said Sibrian. “Because I need to talk with the pitcher and with the other guys, too, so they help me a lot. It’s when you try to speak with the other guys and you feel you are still learning, you know. That’s the best part to talk with the other people.”