Red Sox 3B Devers trains with teammates on and off the field

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BOSTON — Red Sox star Rafael Devers trains with his teammates on and off the field.

Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, the 25-year-old quickly rose through the minor ranks, becoming one of the game’s best hitters and brightest stars. He was voted the American League’s starting third baseman for the second consecutive year. He’s batting .326 with 19 homers and 51 RBIs.

Signing with Boston at just 16, he had to work on another thing off the pitch after arriving in the United States: learning and speaking English.

Devers speaks good English, but prefers to use a translator. He listens to questions and answers in Spanish before they are translated.

“I don’t really feel comfortable doing the interviews in English. Sometimes I feel comfortable, but I know I need to learn even more,” he said through team publicist Carlos Villoria Benítez. “I don’t like making mistakes doing interviews or saying something I shouldn’t. I will continue to work on this.

Devers made his Red Sox debut at age 20 after spending just three seasons with the minors, starting with the Gulf Coast League in Fort Myers, Florida. There, he realized the challenge of a new place, of another language.

“It’s not easy,” said Devers, who added that he hadn’t taken any English lessons. “It’s not something you do overnight, but I do my best to learn the language. It’s really difficult for everyone who comes here, not just a baseball player, but everyone.

Now he says he can turn a sentence with his teammates on the pitch or in the dugout.

“I’m pretty comfortable speaking English with my teammates and coaches,” said Devers, nicknamed “Little Papi” by some fans in reference to Red Sox star and recent Hall of Famer David Ortiz. .

Cardinals star Albert Pujols, also born in the Dominican Republic before moving to New York and then Missouri as a teenager, knows what the young star has been through.

“I didn’t know the language. I had to learn it in high school. I had to learn it and finish high school,” Pujols said. “It was hard, but it’s like everything you want to accomplish in life; you have to put your mind and heart into it too. I always put my mind to it. »

Pujols knows how difficult it can be for young players to learn the language while playing. English as a Second Language (ESL) classes have been offered by teams to minor league players as an industry standard for decades, but franchises vary in how much they help players adjust to life in the United States. Major league clubs are also mandated to offer ESL classes if players so desire.

“You don’t need English to communicate in baseball, but you need to speak English to communicate outside with the media and with the fans,” said Pujols, 42, who announced he would take his retirement after this season.

Boston manager Alex Cora said he was proud of Devers after doing one of his first interviews in English during a post-game on the team’s flagship radio station two years ago. month.

Whether it’s extra BP, more grounders, or spending time chatting with other players, Devers knows he’s getting better.

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