It's often taken for granted that when a Latin player comes to the states to play baseball, he will quickly pick up English. Little thought is given to just how difficult it is, in addition to making the transition to a completely different culture.
California native and Aeros second baseman Brandon Pinckney had the tables turned on him recently, getting a little taste of what it has been like for many of his foreign teammates over the years.
Starting the season in Winter Haven, Fla., at the Indians extended spring training camp, Pinckney found himself the lone English-speaking infielder in his group. Not to mention a 28-year-old veteran among a group of young and impressionable first and second-year players.
"I wasn't happy about it being there in the first place,'' said Pinckney, a six-year veteran drafted by the Tribe with their 12th pick in the 2003 draft. "On top of it I was one of the only American infielders. So everything went from Spanish to English - being translated just for me.''
If that wasn't a tough enough way to begin the season, when Pinckney was finally placed with a club - landing in Akron in mid-April when left fielder Trevor Crowe went on the disabled list with a lower back injury - he played sporadically in a reserve role.
"When I first got here I was playing once every fifth day,'' Pinckney said. "So it took some time getting my timing down.''
Pinckney worked with former teammate and current Aeros player/coach Shaun Larkin on his batting until Pinckney found his groove at the plate. Once things clicked, Pinckney went on a tear.
He pieced together a 13-game hitting streak that lasted through Friday, batting .370 (17-for-46) over that span. In 19 games with the Aeros this season he's hitting .271 (19-for-70) with two doubles and six RBI.
"It was a good stretch for Pink,'' Aeros manager Mike Sarbaugh said. "We'll give him a little break then get him right back out there.''