Sunday, July 31, 2005

¡Viva el Beisbol! And Hurray for the Little League!

I love Spanish, and I love baseball.

In my last post, I talked about two different "worlds" converging, when my Spanish-language-and-culture passion sometimes crosses paths with my non-Latino daily life. But here are two things that are easy to combine! Over 25% of our major league players are Spanish-speaking. And not only is baseball popular in many Latin American and Caribbean countries, but many of our English-speaking players play in the Venezuelan and other Latin American leagues during the off-season.

I always teach a unit on Latinos in baseball to my classes -- what countries do our Spanish-speaking players come from, which teams have the most (and the least!) Latino players, why do the kids think baseball is more popular in some Latin American countries than others (this is a good geography and history lesson!). The kids pick a player and make a baseball card with his stats, and draw the flag of his country.

It's a natural match: kids, Spanish, and baseball. So much so, that this week I'm planning to film the Spanish-speaking players of our local minor league team, the New Jersey Jackals, for my first Chispa video!

So today I learn that a Little League umpire in Massachusetts prohibited a coach from speaking in Spanish to his team, made up of young Dominican players. In a country still full of "English Only" sentiment, I can't say I'm surprised. What did pleasantly surprise me, though, was the reaction of the Little League International organization. They said there was no such basis for that ruling, and the umpire was dismissed.

¡Viva el béisbol! And ¡viva el Little League!

Here's the full story, from Reuters:

Fri Jul 29, 2005 6:39 PM ET

Umpire reprimanded by Little League

BOSTON (Reuters) - An umpire who ordered a Little League baseball team to stop speaking Spanish during a game this week was barred from officiating any more games this year, league officials said on Friday.

The incident occurred when a bilingual assistant coach shouted out instructions in Spanish to the team's 14-year-old pitcher and catcher, who are immigrants from the Dominican Republic and speak little English, the Eagle-Tribune newspaper reported.

The umpire, whose name has been withheld, then ordered the team to speak only English.

The coach of a Methuen, Massachusetts-based Little League squad said the umpire's ruling banning the use of Spanish on the field demoralized his team and ultimately contributed to its loss in a state tournament game, according to the newspaper report.

Lance Van Auken, a spokesman for Little League International, said in a statement, "The umpire made an incorrect decision, for which there was no basis in the Rules and Regulations of Little League."

As a result, Little League officials will not allow that umpire to work any more games for the remainder of the year.

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.

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