The Many Languages of Major League Baseball

Major League Baseball Opening Day 2018

Baseball may be a quintessential American pastime, but that doesn’t mean enjoyment is limited to English-speakers. In fact, 2018 Opening Day rosters showed that Major League Baseball players have become increasingly diverse. Last year, the percentage of black players in the MLB is 7.7 percent, Latino players 31.9 percent, and Asian and other diverse players 2.7 percent. In 2018, there is a combined total of 241 players born outside the U.S., representing 21 countries and territories. Examples include the Dominican Republic (84 players), Venezuela (74 players), and Cuba (17 players).

For the moment, a majority of Major League baseball fans are English-speakers, but those demographics are changing along with the players. MLB’s fan base is more diverse than that of Major League Hockey, NASCAR, and the Professional Golfers Association. With 2018’s MLB Opening Day coming up on Thursday, March 29th, organizations with stakeholders in the world of baseball are considering how best to meet the needs of players and fans whose primary language is not English.

MLB’s Move to Meet the Needs of Spanish Speakers

The MLB organization once relied on bilingual teammates or coaches to interpret for non-English-speaking players, which resulted in interviews and promotional events of varying quality. However, by 2016, it was clear that this practice must change. Using untrained interpreters was not only unprofessional – it was potentially dangerous.

The MLB started requiring every team to have full-time professional interpreters for players with limited or no English proficiency, in part so players could adequately and appropriately express themselves in the media. In a joint memo from the MLB and the players union, all 30 teams were notified that beginning in the 2016 season, they must hire full-time Spanish language interpreters for players, since Spanish has become such a ubiquitous second language in all MLB locker rooms. Since requiring interpreters, NPR noted that ESPN has been able to achieve higher quality interviews with players because they are more comfortable speaking their native language while using an interpreter, than trying to conduct interviews with varying levels of success in English.

The Benefits of Professional Language Services for MLB and Affiliates

Adding professional language services is a promising first step in creating a more inclusive MLB community. After all, not only do the international players have committed fans in the U.S. – they also have fans from their home countries tuning in to social media, news channels, and television broadcasts.

This additional non-English speaking fan base is critical to the future success of MLB and associated companies as the core baseball audience continues to age. MLB has the oldest viewers in any of the top sports, with more than 50 percent of fans over the age of 54. For comparison, the average age of National Football League viewers is 47, and National Basketball Association viewers average 37 years old. Perhaps more alarming, the number of children between the ages of 7 and 17 who play baseball dropped by 41 percent between 2001 and 2013. Both the MLB and organizations who rely on MLB viewers must take action to bring new fans into the game.

By all measures, there is significant value in refreshing the look and feel of MLB to appeal to a more diverse fanbase. Translating information and coverage with professional translation services, subtitling services, and cultural consulting ensures that the downward trajectory of baseball viewership is halted – and even reversed – as new fans are attracted to the excitement of Major League Baseball.

The experts at Dynamic Language specialize in the custom work required to build culturally appropriate experiences for viewers and clients in a variety of industries. Visit Dynamic Language online for more information.

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