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Voices Of Diversity: CR Kernels

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) - There is a push now in major league baseball to help players from other countries learn English. It’s a program that's made its way to the Minnesota Twins organization, benefitting the Cedar Rapids Kernels.

It used to be that players striving for the major leagues entering the farm system would only have language instructors at the rookie level. Now, for nearly every step of the way, they have a teacher that works with them during weeks that they're at home.

During Wednesday’s class, at Veteran’s Memorial Stadium, four players from four different countries came together to hone their speaking skills; Chih-Wei Hu, a pitcher from Taiwan, Jonatan Hinojosa, an infielder from the Dominican Republic, Josue Montanez, a pitcher from Puerto Rico and Engelb Vielma, an infielder from Venezuela.
Abby Pumroy was a natural fit to teach the class. She’s been serving as a Kernels host family for 14 years. Originally from Puerto Rico and raised in New York, she speaks Spanish like many of the players do.
“When they come through the farm system, they don’t have any idea about the language. They know they’re going to go play baseball, that’s all they know,” Pumroy said.

It’s Pumroy’s job to help make the transition easier. She said she commends major league baseball for recognizing the need players have to receive English instruction.

“It’s a little bit hard because before I had no idea what was English,” Hu said.

Hinojosa, who Pumroy said has grown tremendously since he came to the US, thinks of the classes as an important part of his training.

“Every day we learn different words with her. I learned really good with Abby because she is a good teacher for us," Hinojosa said.

Pumroy, takes a practical approach, playing charades with players, asking them about their families, home cities and even what they talked about during the game. Sometimes she brings in the newspaper and players talk about ads or discuss what they would normally buy during a shopping trip.

“It’s very rewarding; it's so much fun to see where they are, and how comfortable they are. I think they all have progressed," Pumroy said.

Players said what they’re learning in the classroom not only helps them communicate better with their fans through interviews, but also communicate better on the field.

“We pass the whole game talking and that makes me relax,” Hinojosa said.

It is a dialogue that also allows players to understand coaches and their manager without using a translator. It's a step that helps them on the way to their common goal, the big leagues.


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