New face Anna Bolton: Indians Translator and Player Engagement Coordinator

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Even though Anna Bolton is still settling into her new position with the Cleveland Indians, Cleveland and Progressive Field (plus the many road cities she visits) are already home.

Bolton joined the Indians organization in May as the MLB Translator & Player Engagement Coordinator for the team — a position that MLB mandated for all teams this year.

When Bolton, who is never seen without a smile, isn’t at Progressive Field, she’s traveling with the team, but we were lucky enough to catch-up with her to learn more about her background and role with the Indians.

Indians: Tell us a little bit about your background and previous experiences.

Anna Bolton: I was a teacher before I began working with the Indians’ major league team. I taught middle school ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) and Dual Language Kindergarten and First Grade in North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida.  

I also have spent a lot of time in the Dominican Republic, which is where I learned most of my Spanish. I first visited the country when I was 15 years old and have returned numerous times on mission trips, vacation, for a college semester abroad and lived in Santo Domingo for most of 2010. While living in Santo Domingo I ran children’s programs, frequently traveled to Haiti to participate in earthquake relief efforts, and taught English and American Culture in the Indians Dominican Academy.

In the Indians Academy, I taught Latino prospects who had signed with the team as International Free Agents. Young signees usually spend a year or two in the Dominican Academy preparing to come to the US to play in our minor league system.  There were about 35 players living at the academy and attending my classes, and they included Danny Salazar, Jose Ramirez, and Erik Gonzalez.

Indians: What got you interested in foreign languages/translating, and when did you decide to pursue it as a career?

AB: When I first went to the Dominican Republic as a 15 year old, I knew a little bit of Spanish from school and was able to communicate to some extent with Dominicans, but was often frustrated because I was unable to speak fluently and understanding them was often difficult. I knew that I was going to return to the DR, so this motivated me to seek out jobs and volunteer opportunities that allowed me to work with Latinos and speak Spanish.

I kind of got into translating and interpreting by accident.  As I am often the only bilingual person in a room of Spanish and English speakers, I frequently am asked to interpret. I always have enjoyed and seen the value in facilitating conversation for people who would otherwise not be able to communicate, so translating and interpreting eventually became a natural career choice.

Indians: What are some of your main responsibilities with the Indians?

AB: I am always available to interpret when the media is around for pre-game and post-game interviews. I have had conversations with the native Spanish speaking players about how I can be an asset for them during interviews. For some, I interpret everything in the interview. For others I just stand nearby to interpret questions that they don’t understand and answers that they prefer to give in Spanish, or feed them a word when they can’t think of it in English. A few native Spanish-speakers who always give interviews in English have asked me to just listen in and give them feedback afterwards on what they can improve on. 

In addition, our Spanish-speaking players know that I am available to answer questions or help them with anything from our travel itinerary on the road to getting their walk-up music to the scoreboard crew. I also translate documents for the Executive Offices from English to Spanish, work with all players’ wives and families, and play a role with both the Communications and Community Impact Departments.

Indians: What is your favorite part of your position?

AB: There are so many great aspects of this job and I am thankful that I have this opportunity to work in baseball and for such a great organization.  There are many things that I love about it, but my favorite is that I have daily opportunities to make life a little bit easier for our Spanish-speaking players. I like that they know that I am available for them if they need help doing, saying or understanding something and that I am able to relieve some of the stress that comes with living and working in a foreign country.

Indians: What has been the most rewarding part of your new role?

AB: Because of the language barrier, fans often do not have the opportunity to get to know Latino players on MLB teams the same way that they know English-speaking players. I love that I am able to give fans a chance to hear the more in-depth responses that they are able to give in their first language, and that fans are able to see a bit more of their personalities.  It is also rewarding to know that Spanish-speaking players feel more comfortable giving interviews and communicating when I am around.  

Indians: What has been your best or most memorable experience with the Indians so far?

AB: Since I used to be their teacher, I have truly enjoyed seeing Jose Ramirez, Erik Gonzalez and Danny Salazar flourish this season. It is difficult to describe the pride that a teacher feels when seeing a student reach life-long goals, but I am fortunate to be a part of this with all three of these players that I have known since they were teens. Witnessing first-hand Danny’s joy after he made the All-Star team, interpreting for Jose during his first ever post-game on-field interview and welcoming Erik to the Indians after he got called up from AAA are moments that I will always cherish and be grateful for.

Indians: Since you travel with the team, what have been some of your favorite places you’ve visited? Where do you like to go in road cities?

AB: My favorite two cities that I’ve traveled to with the team so far are Seattle and Toronto. Seattle is a fascinating city and Safeco Field is a beautiful ballpark. We stay at a hotel downtown near the water and there are so many attractions within walking distance. Toronto is huge and I didn’t have as much time to explore the city as I hoped due to that infamous 19 inning game, but our hotel is only a couple blocks from the field and I enjoyed walking to work each day and the parts of the city that I was able to see.

When we play night games, I am usually free during the mornings and early afternoons on the road. I try to find a good local place for breakfast, take a yoga class and see a few sights before heading to the field for the evening.

 

See Anna in action here — translating Jose Ramirez’s first ever post-game on-field interview! 

 

-TribeVibe contributor Hailey Ellis

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