When a teenager from another country is recruited to play baseball for the Miami Marlins, language barriers and life skills might be the last thing on his mind.
However, a solid education combined with the practice of healthy habits and financial planning is essential for these young players, especially if baseball isn’t forever.
The Miami Marlins are starting several initiatives in player development. Among the changes: a new education program and a new leader, Emily Glass.
“We aren’t just creating baseball players,” Glass said. “We’re creating citizens.”
Marlins chief Derek Jeter emphasizes the importance of education, Glass said. The program is aimed at minor league players.
All of the international players are required to spend two years at a player development complex in the Dominican Republic, regardless of where they are from, before moving to the United States.
The educational program has two initiatives: a language program for international players and a life-skills segment.
A high percentage of players come from Spanish-speaking countries, and often have limited English skills, Glass said. Coaches and player development employees often participate in the language program as well. In the future, Glass hopes to begin teaching American players Spanish so that the team is fully bilingual.
“We are a diverse organization, so it’s a priority to make sure our clubhouse is bilingual,” Glass said. “It’s imperative that our catchers can communicate with staff, pitchers, and others.”
Pablo Garcia, who signed when he was just 16, has noticed the difference in education that the Marlins are offering.
“I sense the changes, and it’s an exciting time to be a part of the Marlins,” he said. “I want to be in the program because I want to learn new things.”
The Marlins recently began hiring Hispanic educators to better connect with players. Besides teaching the players English, they also support them in other ways. The program prepares the players to come to the United States and supports them through cultural seminars and by helping them with Social Security, housing searches, and banking information.
“The program gives them support in case baseball doesn’t work out,” Glass said. “We give them opportunities to hear about the other options they may have.”
When Garcia entered the program, he did not know how to speak English at all. He is now one of the best English speakers in the program for his age, Glass said.
“We really need this,” he said. “I want every little boy to grow up and have the chance to be a Miami Marlin.”