Adeiny Hechavarria signed with the Toronto organization in mid-April of this year, about ten months after he arrived in Mexico after defecting from Cuba during a baseball tournament in Edmonton. He began his professional career in High Class A Dunedin before being promoted to New Hampshire in late June.
Though Adeiny is still working on his English, he agreed to sit down with me for a few minutes prior to tonight’s game against the Binghamton Mets. We spoke about the difficulties of learning a new language, his stateside support system, and what it’s like to play for manager Luis Rivera. Clubhouse attendant Jose A. Ortiz was on hand to translate his answers (Full disclosure on the process: I asked the questions in English, Jose translated to him, Adeiny answered in Spanish, and Jose translated to me.)
Are you beginning to feel more comfortable with the English language?
Little and little I’m learning it. As weeks go by I’m getting better and better.
Some players go to the movies or read magazines to help learn the language. Do you do anything like that?
I’m using some CDs that’ll say the words in English and then say it in Spanish so I get comprehension.
What’s the hardest thing about learning a new language?
It’s very difficult for me. I’m learning the phrases, “How are you?”, “How are you doing,” that kind of thing, but in the long run I’m going to be able to learn the language.
About a month ago, you said you still weren’t used to life over here. What’s the biggest cultural change or adjustment?
The biggest thing is the culture, the difference in cultures.
Baseball’s pretty much the same, but are there any differences in the way it’s played in Cuba and the way it’s played here?
There’s a lot of similarities. The pitchers are the same, the pitches they throw are the same. The only difference is the ballparks. The ballparks are much nicer here.
Growing up, which players did you admire?
Derek Jeter is my favorite, but there’s a guy called Herman Mesa who was like my idol from Cuba.
What was special about him?
He was a shortstop.
A lot of the players that you played with are in the United States now. Do you ever talk to any of those guys?
Just about making adjustments to being here and living here?
I’ve spoken about family life, how we miss our families. Baseball is important to me, but my family is equally important, and that’s where my thoughts are now, on both.
Playing for Luis Rivera – what’s that like? Are you learning a lot from him? Did you know about him before you came here?
I found out about Luis when I was in Dunedin. I’ve learned a lot from Luis. He’s like my professor as well as my manager, and I’m continuing to learn from him every day. Because Luis was a shortstop, like I am.
A lot of teams wanted to sign you, so why choose the Blue Jays?
When I was in the Dominican Republic, I didn’t isolate any team. I would’ve signed with any team. What stood out for Toronto was the opportunity to play shortstop in Toronto. There was an opportunity there, and I’ve gotten that opportunity, to get there someday.
What was the best moment so far this season?
The best play was when I dove, without even looking, behind the bag. It was early, when I got here. I made the play and threw the ball to first. That night I was talking to my friend and I said, “I made a major league play tonight.” It was one of the first days I was here. That’s the best that stands out in my mind.