New White Sox player finds Spanish-speaking manager to his liking
Infielder Alen Hanson continues to adapt to new surroundings in the clubhouse after the White Sox claimed him off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates and put him on the active roster last week. The transition has been easier, he said, because of manager Rick Renteria’s fluency in Spanish.
“For me, it has been an advantage . . . because we can communicate directly,” Hanson, 24, who’s from the Dominican Republic, said through interpreter Billy Russo. “That, for me in the past, has been a challenge because I didn’t have the opportunity to play for a manager who spoke the same language as me, and the communication was a little difficult there. But with Ricky, since the first moment that I came here, we spoke, and we are on the same page.”
One thing we know Renteria said to Hanson on Wednesday night was, “You’re pinch hitting for Willy Garcia,” to which Hanson responded with his first career homer.
Hanson’s first reaction to Ren-teria is similar to that of most Sox players, Latino or otherwise: They like him, respect him and play hard for him, which — despite the team’s 29-36 record — was demonstrated again Thursday in a 5-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles.
“He seems to be, like, a very good guy, a guy who takes care of the players, and I like that,” Hanson said before the game.
Renteria showed it in the fifth inning when first-base umpire Paul Emmel ejected Avisail Garcia, who had thrown up his hands and pointed to his eyes after Emmel ruled he didn’t check his swing. That led to Garcia’s first career ejection and Renteria’s eighth, including two this season. Renteria’s beef with Emmel was that he pulled his heave-ho trigger too soon.
Sox catcher Kevan Smith said Renteria, who stormed onto the field and threw his cap in the dirt, fired up the team, which was locked in a 1-1 tie at the time.
Matt Davidson, who got the Sox on the board with a homer in the fourth, didn’t disagree.
“He’s our leader, Ricky is,” Davidson said. “We’ll do anything for him, and we know he’ll do anything for us. It’s a good relationship between us. We listen to what he says, and we back him 100 percent.”
Said Renteria: “I hope that they know that I don’t like to get tossed to show that I appreciate everything they do.”
Twelve of the 25 players on the Sox’ active roster are Latin Americans, and while having the bilingual Renteria — oddly, the only Latino manager currently in baseball — offers obvious conveniences and comforts, not every Spanish-speaking player says it’s paramount. Asked about the advantages of having a Spanish-speaking manager, infielder Yolmer Sanchez, right-hander Michael Ynoa and catcher Omar Narvaez all said it’s nice but not that big a deal.
“No, I feel the same way I did last year with [Robin] Ventura [as manager],” Narvaez said. “Most of the time, we speak English because we’re having conversations with the pitcher or whatever. It’s a different guy, but it’s the same thing.”
The difference for the players, perhaps, might be related to their own levels of fluency. Narvaez, Sanchez and Ynoa — as well as Jose Quintana, Miguel Gonzalez, Avisail Garcia and Leury Garcia — are comfortable enough with English to handle media interviews without an interpreter. But Hanson, Jose Abreu, Melky Cabrera, Willy Garcia and Gregory Infante all use Russo.
“In my case, especially, it’s good because I can communicate with [Renteria] in Spanish,” Abreu said, through Russo, during spring training. “That’s good. That’s a direct communication between us, and that’s very, very good.”
In any language, all of Renteria’s players understood what he was doing Thursday.
“That just shows you what he’s preaching to us in here, what he brings to the table,” Smith said, “It was awesome to see him get a little heated.”
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