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Michael Pineda and the challenges faced by non-English speaking players

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Andrew Marchand has an interesting story up over at ESPN. It’s about Michael Pineda and how far he has come since he was suspended for using pine tar while pitching in 2014.

It’s not really about how far he’s come on-the-field — Pineda is coming off of two below average seasons — but how far he’s come as a complete player and a person. Primarily with respect to his learning of English.

It’s not a “oh good, look at the foreign-born player assimilating!” story. It’s about how, whether a player makes a big effort to learn English or not, the language barrier creates all manner of difficulties that native English speakers never have to deal with. In the case of the pine tar, a quick, comfortable conversation between American players is likely sufficient to convey the dark art of using the stuff without getting caught. In Pineda’s case he wasn’t really able to talk to anyone about how blatant is too blatant in the majors.

That’s a minor point, of course, but the language barrier extends to every facet of life in the United States, especially for younger players who are adjusting to a new home. Everything from reading street signs to a menu is a challenge to some degree, and when everything you do during the day is slightly harder, the toll adds up. It’s also worth noting that Spanish speaking players did not even necessarily have team translators until this year. It wasn’t required until the recently-adopted Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Anyway, it’s a good look at a part of the game we don’t often see. And a reminder that a lot of players have challenges separate and apart from opposing batters and pitchers.

Reds acquire Darnell Sweeney from the Dodgers

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The Reds acquired utilityman Darnell Sweeney from the Dodgers in exchange for cash considerations, J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group reports.

This is the second time that the Dodgers have traded Sweeney. The club sent him to the Phillies along with John Richy in August 2015 for Chase Utley. The Phillies sent him back to the Dodgers this past offseason with Darin Ruf in exchange for Howie Kendrick.

Sweeney, 26, made his major league debut in 2015 with the Phillies, hitting a meager .176/.286/.353 in 98 plate appearances. With Triple-A Oklahoma City this season, he hit .227/.290/.412 in 131 PA. While Sweeney’s bat hasn’t proven to be anything special, he has played second base, third base, shortstop, and all three outfield positions, so his flexibility will make him useful at some point.

Bryce Harper to Little League players: “No participation trophies, first place only”

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Nationals’ star outfielder Bryce Harper had some words of advice for a local Little League team on Saturday, telling a crowd of young players and their parents that winning matters far more than any participation trophies they might receive for their efforts on the field.

“As much as they might tell you, ‘Oh, it’s okay, you guys lost…’ No, Johnny, no,” Harper explained. “No participation trophies, okay? First place only. Come on.”

The panic over participation trophy culture has swelled over the last few years as studies continue to suggest that children are happier when they’re praised for their accomplishments, rather than rewarded for simply trying their best. The general idea is that kids aren’t motivated to succeed when they know they’ll receive a ribbon or medal celebrating their efforts at the end of the day — regardless of whether they win or lose. (Granted, it stands to reason that every kid can feel the difference between winning a championship trophy and receiving a participation ribbon.) Some have taken the idea to an extreme, claiming that when a child receives too many accolades for mediocre or poor performances, it can warp the way they view the world by generating a sense of undeserved entitlement.

Harper kept his tone light during the Q&A session, however, drawing cheers and applause from the majority of parents and a few of the kids. The 2015 NL MVP has routinely taken his own advice over the years, earning Rookie of the Year honors, four All-Star nominations and a Silver Slugger award since he broke into the major leagues in 2012. Next on his list? A World Series championship.