Focus On: The First Barrier

I can’t imagine being an athlete, and I mean that quite literally.

My greatest athletic prowess comes at a bowling alley, and even there I’m beat by 8-year old schoolgirls with a bright pink ball. Maybe that’s why I fit so well behind the KTIK microphone, the KBOI board, or writing this.

Last night was my chance to meet some real athletes: the Boise Hawks, and if there’s one thing that struck me from the first moment, it was the sense of utter confusion in the room.

Players had specialized and translated paperwork laid before them like some sort of standardized tests, and the conversations among some players were limited because of a language barrier.

At one point every player was seated and concentrated on their tasks of paperwork and attempts at bridging language gaps, while I got up and got myself another Pepsi.

That was officially the last time I will ever be more physically active than any one of those players.

I haven’t seen the players throw, catch, or swing at a ball yet, but I think it’s easy to tell a good clubhouse guy from a bad apple. So, I can tell you now, the respect the men had for each other, and the mutual feeling of a first day in school that was written on each of their faces showed a pretty good sign of a group of men ready to do Northwest League battle. 
These are professional baseball players. Yet each one stood, having to share their names, their hometown and their position. Then, as if the awkwardness of homework, public introduction and linguistic confusion wasn’t enough, the house parents were paraded in front of them, each giving a pitch like it was eHarmony, and the players were allowed to find out what family they would end up living with.

I’ll spare you on the details of how this went down, but if you have the history I had playing athletics, you’re expecting an elementary school gym teacher numbering you off and sending you on your way.

This was more like Wall Street, with less yelling and better prospects.

But after all was said and done, and the families had all taken their respective player home, I had the chance to mull over what I had seen.

There were plenty that had struggled with standing in front of a crowd, and I could tell some were even uncertain about the families that had chosen them as their live-in guest. Those that had spoken English tried to help those that couldn’t, while the paid translators had fulfilled their duty of keeping their respective players comfortable. And after all of it, one thing was very clear.

It didn’t matter if the player spoke English fluently, partially or not at all.

These men speak baseball.

When it comes to game time, they’ll understand every pitch and every swing.

The language barrier is like the first base line. It won’t be going away, but its lore is nothing more than superstition. Give these guys a half-inning of playing ball and they won’t even notice when they hop over it on their way to the dugout.

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