Spotlight shines on Diaz, the translator
Assistant clubhouse manager serves role as interpreter
PHILADELPHIA -- The postseason spotlight often finds those that operate in the shadows. It even found its way to Joe Diaz on Wednesday afternoon.
Diaz is the Rockies' assistant clubhouse manager. But one of his duties is translating for Spanish-speaking players who either don't speak English or are uncomfortable with it in certain situations. He usually does his work in the clubhouse, but he found himself before the baseball world before Wednesday afternoon's Game 1 of the National League Division Series.
The Rockies' starter for Game 2, Franklin Morales, who pitched much of regular season at Double-A Tulsa, conducted a press conference. Morales speaks English. During Spring Training, Tulsa pitching coach Bo McLaughlin spoke to Morales in Spanish, but only if Morales would answer in English. Since his promotion to the Majors in September, Morales has done interviews in English.
However, Morales understandably did not feel comfortable speaking it into the microphone before worldwide cameras.
So Diaz, 30, joined Morales at the interview table.
"I was a little nervous," Diaz said. "I started thinking about how many people were watching this. Usually back in Colorado, it's just people that I know, not in the spotlight."
It was a highlight of a career of unsung duty for Diaz. He played catcher in Little League, but he gave up playing when the Mariners hired him as bat boy in 1994, right around his 17th birthday. He worked as equipment manager for the Blue Jays organization in Dunedin, Fla., before joining the Rockies in 2005.
Diaz, who was born in California but moved with his family to Seattle at 12, said he has not had formal training as an interpreter. Then again, he has had a lifelong education.
"Spanish is my first language, because both my parents came from Cuba," Diaz said. "So when I was growing up and both my parents were working, I was with my grandmother, and she still doesn't speak very much English.
"Most of the time with my parents, I spoke Spanish. But I learned English at school [and] from my friends in the neighborhood. And my sister and I spoke English to each other."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.