Beyond Yo La Tengo: The Padres are teaching their employees Spanish

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Spanish book.jpgLots of teams teach English to Latin players. Not too many teach Spanish to the English speakers. The Padres do, however, and it seems like a great idea:

“It’s something I thought was important to make us efficient when
dealing with players when we’re going to the Dominican or with our
players who are just coming here and don’t have command of the English
language yet,” Smith said.

“It shows that as an organization that we’re making an effort
to reach out to these kids. Language is a major issue. I’m asking for
two hours a week for maybe nine hours this spring. It’s a beginning,
it’s a start. Our guys have been receptive to it.”

I’m sure there are some people out there who will drag out the tired old “well, they’re the ones coming to the U.S., so why should we learn their language” argument, but it’s dumb one so please don’t.

For one thing, team employees are more of a constant than any specific ballplayer is, so it makes sense that the former learn Spanish to communicate with a perpetually-changing cast of players rather than simply rely on the players learning English.

But beyond that it seems like the mere effort to teach Spanish would have some cultural/chemistry benefits. I stumbled through French and Italian for a few weeks once while traveling, and though I’m pretty sure I mangled it beyond recognition, the folks I spoke with usually appreciated the effort.  Sure, they laughed, and most of the time they saved me by speaking a much better English than I did their own language, but I think I got along better with everyone simply because I tried.

It may not be a significant thing, but given the relatively meager outlay of time in energy it takes to pick up some phrases and at least get your feet wet with a new language, even a modest uptick in team culture and morale would make the effort worth it, no?

MLB now trying to get minor leaguers exempted from minimum wage law at the state level

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In recent years, Major League Baseball spent significant amounts of money lobbying Congress to exempt minor leaguers from the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. They succeeded last year, as minor leaguers are now considered seasonal workers and as such are not owed minimum wage or overtime pay.

MLB is not yet done attacking minor leaguers. Ben Giles of the Arizona Capitol Times reports that MLB is trying to get Arizona lawmakers to exempt players from state minimum wage law. A proposed bill, HB 2180, is being sponsored by Rep. T.J. Shope (R – Coolidge) and would protect MLB from lawsuits, past or present, for not paying minor leaguers at least minimum wage during spring training. Minor leaguers already do not get paid for their work in spring training, so this is simply a preemptive maneuver by MLB to protect itself from potential lawsuits. As Giles notes, HB 2180 would enshrine the exemption in federal law in Arizona’s state statute.

Shope said, “I think it’s just trying to clear up what MLB considers a gray area on their blank. … My assumption is they obviously do have a concern, and are trying to protect a flank of theirs more in the pro-active sense.” Talking about minor leaguers, Shope said spring training is “essentially a tryout. You’re not on the team yet.”

Garrett Broshuis, a former major leaguer and one of the lawyers representing Aaron Senne, Michael Liberto, and Oliver Odle in a case Craig wrote about here, spoke to Giles for his article. Broshuis said, “It really is just unfortunate, because the people of Arizona passed this law to require employers to pay all workers a minimum wage, and these ballplayers are performing a service that is a valuable service, and they deserve to be compensated at least the minimum wage for it.”

Broshuis is seeking class action status in a lawsuit against Major League Baseball in Florida and Arizona, the league’s two homes for spring training. Arizona is home to the Cactus League, the spring training league for the Angels, Diamondbacks, Cubs, Reds, Indians, Rockies, White Sox, Royals, Dodgers, Brewers, Athletics, Padres, Giants, Mariners, and Rangers. A federal judge denied Broshuis’s request but he appealed and is waiting on a ruling.

MLB makes a ton of money during spring training the same way it makes money during the regular season: by charging for tickets, concessions, merchandise, and parking. Minor leaguers are part of the player population helping attract fans to the ballpark, so they deserve to be compensated for their work. That they are not is criminal enough, but to brazenly push legislation to remove any legal remedies they might have had is even more evil. MLB has been setting revenue records year over year, taking in more than $10 billion last year. The league and its individual teams can afford to provide a comfortable life for minor leaguers, but every day it makes the choice not to do so out of avarice.