MLB Should Institute American-Only Language Requirement

Jim Bob Piwnicki
Jim Bob Piwnicki
Trained the old way, by semi-literate men with crappy typewriters, hopped up on benzedrine and Chesterfields, Piwnicki now fancies himself a real reporter. Whatever.

FORT MYERS, FL — Waiting for a still-on-hold baseball season to arrive, a handful of remaining reporters were granted a few minutes of access — at a distance — to a couple of the Minnesota Twins’ stars here at the CenturyLink spring training sports complex.

Jorge Polanco, the Twins’ All-Star shortstop, spoke to the gathered press in his usual manner — through an interpreter. In what has become increasingly common in major league baseball, Polanco collects millions of dollars from a team — and plays in front of paying fans — who speak in what is to him an entirely incomprehensible language.

Gone are the days of making fun of the occasional linguistic foibles of uniformly American-born-and-bred player rosters. Now, at least half of baseball’s dugouts are filled with men who can’t understand a word said by the manager, the fans, the coaches or the press, and only understand what’s said by their fellow foreign-born players. Fractured grammar and the occasional linguistic faux pas has been replaced in baseball tradition by utterly blank stares and the odd decipherable phrase here and there: “beisbol es good,” “pay me mas dinero” or “blatant and obvious owner collusion.”

One wonders, then, what it would take for these handsomely-compensated Venezuelans, Dominicans, Koreans and Cubans to learn a little American? Would it somehow violate the current collective bargaining agreement? Or, are they just not capable of learning a real language, one that we all take the time to learn even though we’re not paid to do business in this country?

They wouldn’t have to be all that great at speaking it, either. Using the linguistic examples of Yogi Berra or Casey Stengel, it becomes obvious that a little proficiency goes a long way in America’s pastime. It’s just not that hard. Trust us. We manage to stay employed with less-than-stellar verbal skills. That’s why Joseph Pulitzer invented copy editors.

Once the wall on the Mexican border is finally completed, perhaps we can concentrate our efforts on those immigrants who somehow manage to get here legally. As if all of these foreign gastroenterologists, nail techs and cab drivers aren’t enough, maybe we can finally address the maddeningly disproportionate percentage of non-American baseball players here in the U. S. of A. And in the meantime, they can learn how to speak the lingua franca, American. Just like Scottish-born Bobby Thomson did.

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