TROY — When Tri-City ValleyCats manager Morgan Ensberg wanted to talk to one of his first basemen Friday, he asked his other first baseman, New Jersey's Troy Sieber, to translate.
The thing is, both first basemen are English speakers.
“I have to repeat myself a lot,” Connor McDonald conceded.
Well, he is Australian.
“He was my roommate [in Greeneville] last year,” catcher Abraham Toro-Hernandez said of McDonald, “and it took me a month to understand everything he was saying.”
If anyone could understand McDonald, it should be Toro-Hernandez, the team's unofficial translator. His parents were from Venezuela, but he was born and raised outside of Montreal. He spoke Spanish at home, and French at school, then learned English in high school. At Friday's media day, he served as a translator for teammates — and, given this ValleyCats team, he was a busy man.
“I try to help them being a translator and tell them English class is important,” Toro-Hernandez said. “I know what they are going through.”
The ValleyCats open their season Monday in Connecticut against the Tigers. After a two-game series, they return to Joseph L. Bruno Stadium for their 7 p.m. home opener Wednesday against the Lowell Spinners. As of Friday, Ensberg didn't know his lineup yet. He didn't even know who would be on his team.
Due to the lateness of the Major League Baseball draft this year (it was held last week), the Houston Astros are still working on signing their picks, and deciding on who gets sent where.
These moves will create a ripple effect, meaning several “ValleyCats” introduced to the media Friday will likely not be on the team by today, tomorrow or next week.
But given how they played in extended spring training, expect these ValleyCats to mash, Ensberg said. Also expect them to be a diverse, international lot.
Baseball is truly a global game, and that was on full display Friday at The Joe. On the initial roster the ValleyCats released that day — again, one that was assuredly to change once draft picks are signed — 10 of the 15 pitchers were from either the Dominican Republic, Venezuela or Mexico. The three catchers? Puerto Rico, Canada and Dominican Republic. Four of the five infielders, and all three outfielders, were foreign players. Overall, nearly half the team — 12 of 26 — were from the Dominican Republic.
Ensberg, who played in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic when he was coming up with the Astros, empathizes with players having to learn a new culture. Still, he said the bigger transition for young players is learning how to play every day.
He also lamented the gross underrepresentation of fellow Norwegian players in baseball. With a straight face.
Well played, Skip. A side note: Ensberg, the guy who cranks rock and rap during practice and gives music history players, has been in town a week and is already becoming a favorite in this, his first managing gig.
McDonald said baseball is baseball, and he is just getting the finer points of the game down here in addition to continuing to play in Australia. He said he has become acclimated to life in America, although driving on the right side of the road can at times still flummox.
“Sometimes,” he admitted, “I still walk around to the wrong side of the car.”
Truth be told, McDonald — who has played baseball in the States for four years — is perfectly understandable. Then again, maybe that's just media bias speaking: After years of covering UAlbany basketball and its steady stream of players from Down Under, the accent seems quite familiar.
Until McDonald sampled what Spanish sounds like with an Australian accent. No one could figure that out.
Of All The Stupid Golf Rules . . .
The Schenectady Classic was not determined by a drive, or a great putt, or a save from a trap. It was decided by a scorecard error that led to a playoff. See Bob Weiner’s story for the gruesome details.
Even the recently passed Roberto Di Vicenzo just cringed at the thought.
Like the 1968 Masters, the error was the result of a playing partner marking down an incorrect score. Which, to point out the obvious, is
absurd beyond the confines of golf.
I could go through the ridiculousness of the Cavaliers keeping score for the Warriors, or the Falcons for the Patriots. You can counter with integrity of the game of golf, logistics, history, etc., blah, blah, whatever.
But it simply comes down to this: Sporting events should not be decided by clerical errors. Ever.
So how about this, golf powers that be: For major tournaments — even on the local scale — take the burden of keeping score away from players. Give it to officials, or, for tournaments like the Classic, volunteers. Let the outcome be determined by the play itself.
Crazy idea, right?