BOSTON ( Associated Press) — Red Sox All-Star Rafael Devers is practicing with his teammates on and off the field.
Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, the 25-year-old quickly rose through the minors, becoming one of the best hitters and brightest stars in the game. He was voted the American League’s starting third baseman for the second year in a row. He is hitting .326 with 19 home runs and 51 RBIs.
Signing with Boston at just 16 years old, there is another thing he had to work on off the field after coming to the United States: learning and speaking the English language.
Devers speaks good English, but prefers to use a translator. She listens to questions and answers in Spanish before they are translated.
“I just don’t feel very comfortable doing interviews in English. Sometimes I feel comfortable, but I know I need to learn even more,” he said through the team’s publicist, Carlos Villoria Benítez. “I don’t like to make mistakes doing interviews or saying something I shouldn’t. I’m going to keep working on it.”
Devers made his Red Sox debut at age 20 after spending just three seasons in the minors, starting in the Gulf Coast League in Fort Myers, Florida. There he realized the challenge of a new place, a different language.
“It’s not easy,” said Devers, who added that he hasn’t taken any English classes. “It’s not something you do overnight, but I do my best to learn the language. It’s really hard for everyone who comes here, not just one baseball player, but everyone.”
Now he says that he can convert a phrase with his teammates on the field or on the bench.
“I feel pretty comfortable speaking English with my teammates and my coaches,” said Devers, who some fans call “Little Papi” in reference to Red Sox star and newly elected Hall of Famer David Ortiz. .
Cardinals star Albert Pujols, also from the Dominican Republic, 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 achieve in life; you have to put your mind to it and your heart too. I always put my mind to it.”
Pujols knows how difficult it can be for young players to learn the language while playing.
“You don’t need to speak English to communicate in baseball, but you do need to speak English to communicate outside with the media and with the fans,” said the 42-year-old Pujols, who announced he will retire after this season.
Boston manager Alex Cora said he was proud of Devers after he completed one of his first interviews in English during a postgame on the team’s flagship radio station two months ago.
Whether it’s extra BP, more ground balls, or spending time chatting with other players, Devers knows he’s getting better.
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