Notes from San Francisco: Language barriers, Affleldt’s new book and saying hi to an old friend.
Hundreds of reporters from all corners of the globe are covering the World Baseball Classic, which presents an assortment of challenges for the tournament’s organizers. The main hurdle? Language barriers.
I’ve never covered an Olympics, but presumably, Major League Baseball has ripped a page or two from that handbook in terms of handling the media during the Classic.
Every reporter, regardless of what language he or she speaks, will have access to every quote uttered by the participants on the podium. How this is carried out is fascinating.
From a media standpoint, the World Baseball Classic is organized in the same manner as a Major League postseason. Formal press conferences are held in an interview room before and after games, attended by managers and select players.
Unlike the Major League playoffs, where clubhouses are open to accredited media after games, clubhouses are closed throughout the duration of the tournament. That makes the interview room sessions essential to reporters who would have very limited access to the players without them.
As a result, press conferences are very well attended, and, compared to the postseason, each session lasts quite a while — often 20 minutes or more. What makes these gatherings interesting is how many different languages are spoken, and because the reporters covering the World Baseball Classic aren’t necessarily from the same countries as the teams that are playing in it, this could be challenging during a general question-and-answer session.
That’s why a World Baseball Classic media gathering can look more like a United Nations convention than a baseball session. Interpreters work simultaneously to ensure every person in the room is able to ask questions in his or her native language, to listen to questions asked by people who speak other languages and to understand the answers given by the folks on the podium, regardless of what language they’re speaking.
How does this work? Headphones are available outside of the interview room, with channels to select from, depending on the language you want to hear.
The postgame scene following Puerto Rico’s win over Japan on Sunday was interesting. Japanese media had questions for the Spanish-speaking players and Spanish-language reporters interviewed the Japanese manager, and thanks to the interpreters sitting in glass-enclosed booths in the back of the room, everyone got answers.
When a question is asked, interpreters from the other two languages repeat the question, and when an answer is given, the same process applies. Reporters tune into the channel of their choosing and simply listen in.
The players and managers also wear headphones, which enables them to get the questions interpreted if they’re asked by someone who doesn’t speak their language. This process allows for a Japanese reporter to ask a question of a Puerto Rican player and receive a full answer in less than 45 seconds.
The other extremely helpful part of World Baseball Classic coverage is the utilization of court reporters, who document every press conference and provide transcripts to the media within minutes of the conclusion of the session.
Regardless of what language is used to ask the questions and given the answers, the transcripts are all handed out in English.
At 33 years old, Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt is fully aware that he’s probably too young to be writing an autobiography when there are still so many life experiences coming his way. But he does feel he has a few things he’d like to pass along to young people, and he also seeks a platform by which to speak out against injustices in the world he’d like to help wipe out.
He had those two elements in mind when he wrote a book titled “To Stir a Movement: Life, Justice, and Major League Baseball,” which is set to be released on April 1.
The focus of the book is not necessarily on Affeldt’s life, although he does offer several anecdotal bits based on his own experiences. Simply, Affeldt feels that professional athletes (contrary to what Charles Barkley has to say about it), are indeed role models. As a believer in good living, leadership and doing the right thing, Affeldt doesn’t shy away from the responsibilities that accompany being in the public eye. He embraces it.
“A lot of guys say, ‘I don’t want to be a role model,'” he said before one of Team USA’s World Baseball Classic games in Phoenix. “Well, too bad. You chose the wrong profession. You’re automatically a role model. Good or bad, you’re going to be one.”
How many of us, at age 30, would love to go back to our 18-year-old selves and offer a little foreshadowing as to what’s coming? That’s part of what Affeldt, who lived all over the world as part of a military family growing up, hopes to accomplish by publishing this book. He’d like to act as a middle man of sorts to kids just now coming of age.
“There’s a lot of 15 to 25-year-olds that I think are a little bit confused when it comes to leading in this country and in the world,” he said. “I wanted to give a little bit of my perspective on what I think a leader does, no matter if he plays sports or not.”
At the same time, Affeldt does feel strongly about being an influence on athletes specifically.
“If I can get to those high school kids right now and say, ‘Look, as an athlete, this is what an athlete is going to act like. This is what an athlete should act like,'” he said. “Sometimes when you watch TV you don’t always see what an athlete is supposed to act like, but I would like to share a different way of being an athlete.”
Part of this involves paying it forward. Affeldt has been actively involved in a number of charitable causes in recent years, including the Not For Sale/Free2Play Foundation, which is driven to rid the world of human trafficking, genocide and slavery, much of it in less-developed countries.
In 2005, he founded “Generation Alive,” a movement of young people responding to the needs of other young people. In 2010, he was the Giants’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award.
Where are They Now?
For those of you watching the World Baseball Classic game between the Dominican Republic and the Kingdom of the Netherlands on Monday: What was the first thing you thought of as you watched Moises Sierra dive into the stands to make the catch in left field that ended the first inning?
If you said “Steve Bartman,” you’re probably not alone.
It’s quite possible that for the rest of human civilization as we know it, any time a ballplayer makes a catch while interfering with a foul ball-seeking fan, images of Bartman and that fateful 2003 NLCS game between the Cubs and Marlins will come to mind.
So you had to appreciate that following Sierra’s catch, the cameras immediately panned to Moises Alou, whose brush with fan interference during that Cubs playoff game nearly a decade ago didn’t turn out quite as well. Alou was easy to find for this camera shot — as the general manager of the Dominican Republic team, he was in the dugout during the game. (He’s also pictured above, on the left.)
Alou’s full-time job is serving as the GM of Escogido in the Dominican Winter League. He also moonlights as a batting practice shagger, as evidenced by this photo taken Monday afternoon at AT&T Park: