Teaching the language of baseball

Last summer, Northeastern University junior Roberto Lavin stood on a baseball field in the Dominican Republic, making sure Latin American prospects in the Boston Red Sox organization called for cutoffs and fly balls in English.

The experience was part of his co-op as an English language tutor for the Boston Red Sox Dominican Baseball Academy, where 16– to 20-year-old prospects in the Dominican Summer League live, train and develops their skills.

Whether a gifted Dominican League star gets called up to the Show may hinge on his ability to understand and discuss baseball lingo in English, Lavin said, noting that it’s a particularly high priority for catchers in the academy.

“The Red Sox would always talk about how essential English is for all position players, but to a catcher, English is really a necessity,” he explained. “I worked closely with young catchers, tutoring them frequently and simulating catcher-pitcher mound interactions.”

As part of his experiential-learning opportunity, Lavin tracked player progress in English class and translated daily pitching, hitting and game reports that were read by top Red Sox officials.

He became close to many of the players, whom he saw in class, on the field and in the weight room. “I was with them from the crack of dawn when practice would start,” Lavin said. “The players truly appreciated my time, effort and dedication.”

“Roberto did a terrific job of assisting our young Latin players in not only learning English, but also in preparing them for the American culture once they got to the States,” said Eddie Romero, the Red Sox director of international scouting.

The international affairs major grew up in a Spanish-speaking home and currently tutors students through the university’s Latino Student Cultural Center.

Both his work experience and cultural background made him a great fit for the co-op, said Frank Gonzalez, the senior international co-op counselor who placed Lavin.

“The academy was very interested in having someone with a command of the language and especially a teaching mentality,” Gonzalez said, adding that the co-op position will be available again this summer. “The student really had to put education first, ahead of an interest in baseball.”