Bilingual skill serves Burriss well
American infielder picked up Spanish growing up
LOS ANGELES -- When Emmanuel Burriss approached Edgar Renteria on Friday night in San Diego to discuss the confusion the middle infielders shared on a play at second base, they spoke in Spanish to settle matters.Spanish might be a second language for Burriss, but using it is a top priority when the Giants second baseman interacts with Latin American teammates. "They feel more comfortable when somebody can express themselves in their own language," Burriss said Monday. "To me, they feel a lot more comfortable than if they had to do it in English." Burriss' skill proves particularly handy while playing infield, where he works alongside Renteria, the regular shortstop, along with third baseman Pablo Sandoval and utilityman Juan Uribe. When necessary, Burriss will explain a coach's instructions to a Spanish-speaking player if they're not entirely clear. And when Burriss reaches base safely, first-base coach Roberto Kelly, a native of Panama, delivers instructions in Spanish. As long as the opposing first baseman doesn't know the language, said Burriss, "Roberto can come right up to the base and talk rather than having to be discreet." Burriss considers himself "99 percent" fluent in Spanish, which he said he began learning by osmosis while growing up in Washington, D.C. As friends and distant relatives spoke it, Burriss simply picked it up.
"D.C. is the kind of city where there's so many different types of people," he said. Burriss never played winter ball in a Spanish-speaking country, which is how many American ballplayers learn the language, but he has visited the Dominican Republic several times.Simply encountering Spanish-speaking teammates since the Giants drafted him in 2006 has helped, too.
"My Spanish coming into pro ball wasn't as good as it is now," Burriss said. Other American Giants with bilingual skills include pitchers Alex Hinshaw, Joe Martinez and Brian Wilson.During the exhibition season, a Spanish-speaking opponent talked strategy with a teammate and didn't realize that Burriss understood every word. Burriss wouldn't name the player, because he wants him to remain blissfully ignorant. Burriss can't wait for something like this to occur in a more crucial instance.
"It hasn't happened during the season yet," he said.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.