One of the players I’ve looked forward to speaking with all season is New Hampshire Fisher Cats outfielder Moises Sierra. Possibly the strongest player on the team, this season Sierra has hit a ball off the Hilton Garden Inn in left-center field and delivered three walk-off base hits. He was recently named to the Eastern League’s Eastern Division All-Star team and is currently hitting .272 with 12 homeruns and 47 RBI in 80 games.
This was the third interview I’ve done with a player who did not speak English as his first language and the second in which we did not use a translator. It was interesting to note that on at least one question, Sierra wanted to explain himself in greater detail but could not find the words in English to say what he was thinking. That’s not to take anything away from him – he was excellent, and the time and effort he put into our conversation was much appreciated. Like most (if not all) of the players I’ve dealt with this season, he seems like a genuinely nice young man.
Also worth noting about Sierra: I originally attempted to set up this interview last week, before the team left on a road trip, but he was unavailable before the game because he was doing extra work in the batting cage. After we spoke in the clubhouse on Wednesday, I went across the field to do another interview. As I headed back to the press box afterward, less than an hour before game time, I passed Sierra underneath the stands as he walked into the batting cage. He certainly puts in some work.
Can you tell me a little about when you started playing baseball?
When I was younger, I played baseball in Little League. I started playing baseball when I was eight years old.
Two things you’re known for are your power and your throwing arm. When did you realize that those were special?
When I was fourteen years old, I had a good arm. I threw a lot, long toss. And my power hitting is natural, you know, from my father. My father is strong too.
Did your dad play baseball also?
Not really, no. As a little kid, just a little.
Did he teach you about the game?
No, I had coaches. The coaches taught me about baseball, about everything.
Earlier this season, I didn’t see it, but I heard you hit a ball that hit the hotel.
When you hit a ball like that, how does it feel, physically?
When I hit the ball, I don’t feel nothing. I don’t feel the contact, you know? That’s good contact. And I feel very excited, happy.
You have three walkoff hits this year, to end games. Is there something about that situation where it’s a close game, it’s late – do you focus more, or is every at-bat the same?
Yeah, yeah. In that situation, I’m more focused, more concentration, and I go up to the plate looking to make good contact. And that’s it. Concentration.
Just going up there and getting a pitch to hit.
Exactly. I’m looking for a good pitch and trying to hit a line drive.
Last year you were hurt a lot of the year. How did you handle the frustration of not being able to play? Was it hard to have to sit on the sidelines, sit on the bench, and just watch?
I got surgery on my hand, the hamate bone, and only played like eight games. It’s hard because I wanna play, you know? You wanna play and that’s difficult because you’re hurt and you can’t do nothing. You’re watching the game and you think, “Wow, I wanna play.” And you can’t play.
So it’s just frustrating.
Exactly. I got two fractures – my hand and my leg. In spring training, my leg was broken. When I started hitting, my hand was sore and swollen.
So you thought you were finally ready to play, and then you get hurt again.
Exactly. That’s a bad year.
In 2007, that was your first season in America. How difficult was it to adjust from playing and living in the Dominican Republic?
That’s different. My first time was difficult because it’s another country, you know, and the way they play in the Dominican is different from here. The baseball is harder.
Like the quality of players?
Quality of players. There are a lot of players here, too. Different country. The baseball here is harder.
Do you feel you’ve come a long way since then, four years ago? Do you feel like you’ve gotten used to it, to the culture and the baseball?
Now it feels normal. Like two years ago, I felt nervous. [long pause] It’s difficult.
In 2009 you came here to Manchester for a few games. Were you excited to come back this season?
Oh yeah, very excited, because this league is Double-A. This league is hard, it’s good baseball, and you’re close to the big leagues [laughs]. I like it here.
What do you do to work on your English?
You know what, my first year, I spoke no English. I said no to English. And the next year I picked up a little bit, and this year is better. I speak it with my teammates, and I talk a lot with the American players. I practice my English. I talk about everything.