Category Archives: Sports

Home Run Derby Bilingual Controversy Showcases Baseball’s Evolving Culture

30th July 2013

cespedes translatorsBaseball is slowly having to come to terms with the fact that “America’s favorite pastime” is evolving into an international sport.

With a mounting influx of foreign-born players growing in prominence in the majors, one of the issues being raised by fans and members of the league alike is how to accommodate players who do not speak English.

On opening day of the 2013 MLB season, over 24 percent players were born in Latin America and 4 percent were born in Canada, Europe or Asia. This marked the fourth highest percentage of foreign-born players in the league’s history.

Some foreign players always seem to have a translator, while others do not. That’s because of a number of factors, including team and league policies.

For Latinos, sports experts said, there are both benefits and disadvantages to being the “majority” minority in this sport.

While players can easily find other members on their team who speak Spanish, they are rarely guaranteed translators the way Asian players are.

Major League Baseball officials told Fox News Latino that it’s because Japanese players make sure translators are worked into their contract.

“It has been more common for Japanese players, some of whom have long played professional baseball before playing in MLB, to negotiate interpreters into their contracts,” Michael Teevan, senior director of public relations for Major League Baseball, said in an email.

That leaves many Spanish-speaking players to rely on teammates and coaches to interpret things for them when they don’t fully grasp the English language.

And while this seems to be working for players on the field, it can be a whole other story when it comes to press and high-profile events.

The issue came to light during the 2013 All-Star Game Home Run Derby, when ESPN reporter Pedro Gomez, a Cuban-American, interviewed a variety of players in their native tongue.

Though it was not the first time that ESPN had interviewed players in Spanish, some viewers blasted the bilingual broadcast.

Even though the majority of the criticism seemed to have a racist undertone, there were also many Latino fans asking why ESPN decided to not make a translator available to these players rather than have the reporter interpreting the responses himself.

“I’m still surprised because I try to see what is really the harm in doing that type of interview,” Gomez told Fox News Latino recently.

Having built a relationship with many of the players he interviews, Gomez said that with millions of viewers watching events like this, he thinks “[the players are not] comfortable trying to put together English phrases that they’re not sure exactly what they’re saying.”

While many players, he said, are attempting to learn English, they become uncomfortable speaking a foreign language when the world is watching them.

“If I was dropped into Germany tomorrow, I don’t think two years from now I’d be comfortable giving a national interview in German,” he said.

With this being the second consecutive year ESPN has received flack for having Gomez conduct the interviews this way, ESPN is aware this issue is a “hot topic.”

ESPN said they strongly stand by Gomez’s bilingual reports.

“Pedro’s report in Spanish during the Home Run Derby was an effective way to serve all sports fans – both English and Spanish-speaking fans – and we’re proud that we’re able to do this,” said Gabby Nunez, the manager of communications for ESPN Deportes and ESPN International.

Nunez said the network tries to deliver the news the best way it can.

“The Hispanic market continues to grow with the bilingual fans and we want to be able to deliver news and report in the best way possible,” he said.

Ultimately, the decision regarding translators has nothing to do with the broadcaster or the league. It has to do with the players themselves.

“In the case of the All-Star Game and its events, we work with players individually to gauge their comfort level and to meet their preferences,” Teevan said. “We also talk to teams about the needs of individual players. Many players bring their own interpreters, in either a formal or an informal capacity.”

(This post originally appeared on Fox News Latino

Inside the MLB Fan Cave

20th April 2012

385604_10150795087296970_1587741750_nImagine if your job was to watch every single Major League Baseball game of the season, over 2,000 games in total.

At an old record store in Lower Manhattan, nine lucky fans, picked from thousands of applicants from around the country, are getting to do just that.

Being touted as the “first-of-its-kind immersive fan experience” the MLB Fan Cave lets fans experience America’s pastime in a whole new way.

It has live concerts, cave tours and celebrity and player appearances. Its main goal is interaction with a whole new fan base.

Unlike the average baseball fan, who is 45, those that engage and take part in the Fan Cave are a much younger demographic, with the average age around 30.

After opening last year, this year’s Fan Cave and it’s “cave dwellers” are starkly different then its pioneers.

The fan cave has undergone a major overhaul, with a remodel of the space itself as well as two new twists.

This year, instead of just two dwellers, there are nine in the cave watching every MLB game on TV. Fans on social media, like Facebook and Twitter, vote to eliminate them.

Even though the current nine cave dwellers are in competition with one another, they don’t see it that why. Instead of fighting, there is a sense of camaraderie and friendship. While there are no set plans on when or how many cave dwellers will be eliminated, cuts will eventually have to be made.

The applicants for this year’s cave increased by over 50 percent, going from 10,000 in the first year to 22,000.

When looking for the cave dwellers, the emphasis was on picking the best people with diverse backgrounds.

Chief Marketing Officer for MLB, Jacqueline Parkes, described what made these cave dwellers stand out.

“Each one of these people, and if you look at them, they have unique personalities, they have unique traits, they have interesting perspectives that they’re bringing to the table- they’re different,” Parkes said. “They represent our fan base. “

One of the two females representing the ladies, who made up just 20% of this year’s applicants, is Ashley Chavez, a second-generation Mexican and avid San Francisco Giants fan. Another contestant is Ricardo Marqúez, a 26-year-old Angels fan and self-professed “failed comedian,” making this year’s cave dwellers anything but boring.

Chavez, a former clothing store manager, has already had the opportunity to meet some of her favorite players, as well as interview musical guests such as the Fray, since being in the cave.

For Marqúez, “switching couches”, from his parents in California to the Fan Cave’s in New York City, was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

At its core, the MLB Fan Cave is all about what makes baseball America’s pastime— its fans.

“We look for people who are going to…represent the voice of the fan,” said Parkes.

By bringing in elements of art, music, culture, and entertainment, baseball fans get to experience a whole new world to the sport they love.

(This post originally appeared on Fox News Latino)