In a joint effort with the players union, Major League Baseball will require every one of its 30 teams to have at least two full-time Spanish language interpreters in 2016. ESPN's Jerry Crasnick said Tuesday that a memo has been sent to all of the teams making it so.
How teams have dealt with such issues in the past has varied from club to club, and has been dependent on which language needed interpreting. This move is designed, in part, to bring uniformity and peace of mind, and to ensure that native Spanish speakers have a chance to express themselves more completely in the media.
Before, it had been customary, on an informal basis, for teams upon request to have a conversationally bilingual teammate or a coach step in to help native Spanish speakers conduct media interviews. For example in recent seasons, the Kansas City Royals would ask coach Pedro Grifol, or players Jeremy Guthrie or Christian Colon, to help during interviews and, at times, in discussions among teammates. More times than not, the club employee was not paid anything extra to do this service. And it can be a burden.
In the case of players brought in from Asian countries such as Japan, Korea or China, a deal frequently was worked out between the team and the individual player. In the case of Nori Aoki of the Mariners, he has a specific clause in his contract that provides $50,000 to help pay for his interpreter, Kosuke Inaji.
Most players, regardless of their country of origin, do their best on their own speaking English, with varying results.
What MLB hadn't ever addressed, until now: Why have the two groups of players -- Asians and Latinos -- been given different expectations? It has been a common accommodation for teams to give Asian players an English interpreter to those who request one. With the Latino players, it's been more of an afterthought, begrudgingly and sometimes half-heartedly afforded. What MLB appears to be doing by requiring Spanish interpreters is erasing the distinction.
The league does encourage players to learn English, and has programs that teach it at the various organizational levels. For most adults it takes a long time to become conversant in a foreign language. MLB also has to be concerned with ensuring that the 25-year-old player from the Dominican Republic or Cuba, who is uncomfortable conversing in English now, can communicate with his team's fans using the help of an interpreter. It is a long-overdue move by MLB.