The Greenville Drive is teaming up with the Greenville Literacy Association to offer Spanish-speaking players English classes.
This isn’t new for the Boston Red Sox affiliate — the organization has been partnering with nonprofits throughout the country to offer English language classes during the four-month season.
But this year will be the team’s first time using the Greenville Literacy Association (GLA).
Dan Abroms, mental skills coordinator with the Boston Red Sox minor league, said the organization has been offering classes for years.
“The minor league is all about development, making sure that players can develop and work their way to higher levels and play at the major league,” Abroms said. “So it’s more than just baseball — it’s also about learning general skills, life skills, and learning how to speak English, especially with coaches that don’t speak their native tongue.”
The Red Sox also offers Spanish language classes at some of its facilities to help players and coaches who speak only English.
Yoan Aybar, who plays No. 37 for the Greenville Drive this season, didn’t speak any English before he started traveling to the United States from his home in the Dominican Republic each baseball season a few years ago.
“It’s very difficult,” Aybar said.
Like his teammates, the 22-year-old has a busy schedule — from May to August, they play seven games a week, train in between, and also fit in an hour of English class when they can.
Yorvin Pantoja, who plays No. 19 for the Drive, also takes the class. Although the schedule can be intense, Pantoja said they still enjoy playing the game. He started playing baseball when he was 7 years old and never stopped. Even in between games and training, Pantoja said many of the teammates play baseball video games.
“It’s a hobby,” Pantoja said.
Once or twice a week, the Spanish-speaking players meet with their GLA tutor, Cheryl Bentley, to go over lessons.
“What’s so fun about working with this group is that they’re already a team, and they’re already comfortable with each other,” Bentley said. “So if anyone makes a mistake, they’ll automatically help each other.”
Bentley never knows who will be in her class — players frequently move up and down to different teams in the minor leagues based on their game performance. So far, she’s had about 10 students this summer.
“They pick up English while they’re here,” Bentley said. “I’ve seen it just from May to the end of July.”
Keibert Petit, who plays No. 51 for the Drive, didn’t know any English before he started playing in the United States from Venezuela. Now, he helps translate for his teammates.
“I want to speak English perfect,” Petit said.