October 22, 2013


One of the possible needs the Cubs have in their next manager is the ability to speak Spanish. With the Cubs emphasis on Latin American international prospects, this may be the key to the final development of those players.

"If you seriously aspire to be a manager in the big leagues, there is a baseball "book" that one must learn. Alongside that book, you must practice Spanish," former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said during a 2012   interview with ESPNdeportes.com. "Of 25 players on each roster, sometimes there are between eight and 15 players who speak Spanish. If you can't talk on a personal level with them, you take the risk of losing one thing you could fix if you speak his language."

The importance of speaking Spanish is to be able to connect with players. "I don't think it's something I thought would help in the game," says La Russa, whose father is Italian and mother is Spanish. "But it was important to establish a relationship with the Latino baseball player. I always thought that when you spoke to them [in Spanish], they felt they would not get confused, that they wouldn't understand something different. And I always thought they felt more at home."

Dusty Baker agrees. "The ability to speak two languages, especially Spanish, helps me not only to be able to communicate, but also to understand their problems, their culture," Baker says. "When you speak to them in their language, you have a deeper understanding of where they come from, and you show respect and esteem." Baker, Mike Scioscia, Mike Matheny,  and Joe Maddon learned to speak Spanish fluently. La Russa and Lou Piniella, who grew up in bilingual families in Tampa, Fla., both spoke Spanish during their long managerial tenures. Even so, there may still be tension and blow ups between manager and player, as with Piniella and hot-tempered Carlos Zambrano.

Manny Acta, Fredi Gonzalez and Ozzie Guillen -- natives of Venezuela, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, respectively -- are fluent in Spanish. They can also relate better to young Latin players who need to make significant adjustments in their life in professional ball in the U.S.

There is a cultural barrier when Latin players come to America. English is the predominate language and American way of doing things may come as a shock. But some Latin players think there is a lack of respect if a coach or manager cannot speak to them in their own native language.

The future road map for the Cubs travels through Latin America for talent. A Spanish speaking manager and/or bench coach would be useful tool in rebuilding the major league roster. But having a non-speaking manager has not stopped other clubs from making the playoffs. The Cubs still need to find the next great manager to lead the team.