White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen recently made comments suggesting Latin American baseball players are not treated as well as Asian players. While reading an article about this on ESPN.com, I was interested to find that major league teams have stepped up efforts to help players assimilate to American culture:
[M]any teams are doing what Guillen has suggested. Although they aren’t hiring specific interpreters, many organizations have intensified their English and cultural assimilation classes at the minor league level. This is a recent development, which is why Guillen hasn’t seen its impact at the major league level.
Teams recognize that a player’s path to success depends on how quickly he can assimilate into the American culture. It’s not nearly enough to be able to throw 95 mph or to hit a ball 450 feet. Pity the teams that lag behind in realizing this. It’s to a team’s benefit to have its players focused on baseball and not on whether they can order dinner, pay their rent or call for a taxi. Teams should do this not for altruistic reasons but for simple economic reasons. It’s a sound fiscal decision to put your employees in the best position to succeed.
Take the case of star Cleveland Indians rookie catcher Carlos Santana. Although he had been bashing Triple-A pitching for most of this year, one of the reasons Cleveland waited until the middle of the season to call him up to the majors was because the team wanted him to focus on language training.
The writer portrays this as a sound business decision but surely there are more dimensions to the story than this. What is the responsibility of a sports team (or any business) to its employees? Helping players adjust to a new culture or helping players complete an education (an issue in baseball, football, and basketball) or navigate a new world of fame and money is an important consideration. Not only might it be a sound economic decision and boost on-field performance but it also suggests teams might also be interested in the human potential (and not just athletic potential) of their players.