Ubaldo Jimenez: Transition to America, Part Two

Indians pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez carries a 5.24 ERA with 84 strikeouts in 19 games started with the Tribe this season. Jimenez recently caught up with TribeVibe and discussed his life in the Dominican Republic and his transition to the United States as a Major League Baseball player. Below is Part 2 of Jimenez’s interview with TribeVibe.

TV: Did you stay with a host family when you first came to America?
UJ: The first time I came to America, I went to Provo, Utah. When I got there, I was like, ‘Wow.’ There were so many blonde girls. That was the first time I saw so many blonde girls; only on TV had I seen it before. I was a little surprised. I was amazed.

I played for the Casper Rockies in Casper, Wyoming. I was really lucky because I had the opportunity to stay with a host family there. They were really good with me and my older teammate. We really had a good time there. I think the first time you come here, if you don’t have a host family, it’s really going to be hard for you. Latin players, we’re really close to our family. It’s not like here, where you get to be 18, and you move out. You live with your parents until you get married in Latin countries.

TV: Do you still live with your parents? How do you spend your time?
UJ: I still live with my parents. I live with them every year. When the season is over, I go home. We do everything [together]; that’s something that I love to do. I love to spend a lot of time with my family. We go to the beach, we do whatever we can together. We like to dance a lot. We really have a good time.

TV: You like to dance a lot?
UJ: The thing about the Dominican — I don’t think it’s only the Dominican, but [Latin America] — we have music in our blood. We love to dance, to have a good time, to spend time with family. In my country, during the weekends or during the week, you’re going to see people dancing everywhere. If you listen to one song, they just kind of stand up and dance. They don’t care about who’s looking, who’s watching. If you’re Dominican, you have to learn how to dance.

TV: Do you and your Spanish-speaking teammates help each other with your English?
UJ: That’s something that I did a lot in Colorado because I spent a lot of time there, so I saw a lot of guys coming up. Here, most of the guys have been here for a while, really. They know how to behave, how to talk. I think they can survive. Definitely, we try to help each other.

TV: Is it ever difficult for you to understand the media in interviews?
UJ: Not for me. I’m able to understand everything. Even before I came to the United States, I was able to hear everything, to understand it, and to write. I wasn’t as good at talking because I was used to being in the Dominican Republic. I studied a lot, but I was really good with my ears and my writing.

TV: Some fans might think Latin ballplayers should speak better English. What would you tell those fans?
UJ: I think they’re wrong. It’s really hard for people to come from another country, especially baseball players. Most of the guys from the Dominican Republic barely go to school. You come here because of baseball. It’s really hard for each one of us — even me, and I studied English. It’s not the same kind of English; once you get here, it’s totally different. For them, it’s even harder. Sometimes they go to restaurants, and they have to make signs to order their food, or they probably order the same thing every single day because they don’t know how to ask for something, how to order food. Sometimes they will be like, [moving his arms like a chicken], ‘Chicken wings.’ It’s funny, but it’s really sad. People don’t understand that it’s really hard. You have to concentrate a lot to play baseball. That’s enough for any person. Then, obviously, you have to learn how to speak English. You have to learn a different culture, how to behave in the United States. It’s totally different.

-Megan Golden, TribeVibe contributor

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