The Los Angeles Dodgers’ newest pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin is poised to make his Major League debut this season. But English rather than opposition batters such as Albert Pujols may limit the player’s success.
On Tuesday, there was good news for Ryu as Major League Baseball decided to allow managers and coaches to bring interpreters to the mound when speaking to foreign-born pitchers who have difficulty understanding English, according to ESPN.
This is a relief for the 25-year-old, who said his English “is very poor.” Having an interpreter is a temporary solution but not the ultimate one because it will hurt his focus in a position where concentration is crucial. Besides, his communication with teammates on and off the pitch will have an impact on his confidence and team chemistry. The upside is that he seems to recognize the weight of the issue.
“I have seen many foreign players having language problems here. I’m so concerned that I will be in their shoes in the U.S.,” Ryu said at a press conference at Daejeon Hanbat Baseball Stadium on Jan. 5.
Among a plethora of funny episodes about communication issues, one is that of former minor league Buffalo Bisons pitcher Choi Hyang-nam.
After throwing with all his might in a game against the Norfolk Tides on April 14, 2006, Choi felt he needed to step off the mound in the third inning. However, when a pitching coach asked him if he could continue, the newcomer said, “No power,” which was taken as “No problem.” After giving up three hits and two runs, he was finally allowed to step down.
Such a situation is unlikely to occur with Ryu with the aid of an interpreter beside him but the anecdote shows how communication issues can become serious.
Dodgers’ co-owner Magic Johnson jokingly said, “Just tell him to throw strikes and he’ll communicate properly,” when Ryu said he was worried about his English ability at a media conference on Jan. 7.
Former Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Kim Byung-hyun has told Ryu that English isn’t important as long as he pitches well. Maybe, Cardiff City midfielder Kim Bo-kyung can give better advice to the promising pitcher as he embarks on a new career on the world’s biggest baseball stage.