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Adrián Beltré: one of the most respected players in MLB

Adrián Beltré: one of the most respected players in MLB

Posted by PanamericanWorld on June 26, 2017

In his 20-year MLB career, Adrián Beltré has become one of the most respected players in the game. But his journey hasn't always been easy. Signed as an international free agent at just 15, Beltré shares his struggles with learning the language, ordering food and relating to teammates. He spoke with Marly Rivera about his transition to the U.S. almost 25 years ago.

Was it hard for you to break into the U.S.?

In my time, a lot of people in the Dominican Republic saw baseball as a way out of poverty, to bring food to the family, to set an example for the country. For me, for David Ortiz, for [Albert] Pujols, it was already a little easier because Sammy Sosa and Raúl Mondesí had already gone. They opened the path for us, and the world already knew that the Dominican Republic had good players.

What was the biggest culture shock when you got to the U.S.?

The number one was the language. I knew very little [English], although the Dodgers' farm system stressed trying to teach players the main things you will face here in America -- how to cope, what to order for you to eat, how to communicate with other players, etc.

What was it like to order food in English?

At first, it was not difficult because in my case we were staying in Dodgertown. I had a lot of help with everything. They have various coaches who speak the language and who help you little by little. But as soon as the season started, it started to get a little more difficult.

I lived with several Latinos, and they did not speak English, so we adapted little by little. We started by ordering food at McDonald's or at Subway after the game. We did a little bit of everything to order. What helped me was arriving at the place, pointing at a photo [of food], saying something as if I were murmuring, letting them answer me, and saying "yes." But I didn't know what they were going to give me. Whatever came, I tried to eat it.

I went hungry a lot because I've always hated pickles. A lot of times the food at McDonald's came with a lot of pickles, and when I ordered I'd just grab the food, go to the hotel, sit down to eat, and open it to find pickles. I'd immediately throw it in the trash.

What was it like not to speak the language?

I tried very hard to learn the language, although I knew it wouldn't be an easy journey. I wanted to not only stand out in baseball, but also to have the freedom to express myself and to ask for what I wanted. One of the things that bothered me most wasn't not knowing the language but not being able to express myself when I wanted to say something. I had to live with my internal voice because I didn't know how to say something.

In my first year in the United States, there was a player who was of Cuban descent named Dan Ricobo who spoke Spanish and English well. So I asked him for a favor: [I asked] if I could bring him one English word a day so he could teach me how to use it in a sentence. That's how I learned little by little, and I was never afraid that people would make fun of me when I said a wrong word.

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