Mets' Jose Butto and Francisco Alvarez gaining confidence speaking English: 'You feel like, wow, this is different'

Abbey Mastracco, New York Daily News on

Published in Baseball

SAN FRANCISCO — José Buttó started learning English during his first season in the minor leagues, with the Mets setting up their prospects in the Dominican Summer League with English classes. Still, it would be a little while before the Venezuelan right-hander would need to use any of the phrases and words he was learning.

Once he got to Florida to play in Port St. Lucie, he wasn’t quite ready to start having conversations in English, but he was prepared for one thing: To order food off of menus at restaurants.

“In Port St. Lucie, that was the first thing we learned,” Buttó told the Daily News without using the Mets’ translator. “When we go to a restaurant, we learned how to order food. ‘Hi, can I get this? Can I get that?’ Here in the clubhouse and in baseball, we talk more with the [Spanish] players.”

Buttó is one of the Spanish-speaking Mets that has come so far with his English that he’s regularly speaking with the coaches, teammates and fans in what has become his second language. Even beyond the inside of the clubhouse, Buttó, Francisco Alvarez and Starling Marte have even started conducting interviews with the media in English.

Anyone who has ever tried to learn another language will understand that this is no small feat. Talking to the media in any language is intimidating for many. The trio feels as though they are now able to articulate themselves better.

“I know the guys coming up, they want to learn English now because we do it,” Alvarez said. “It’s good to see that everyone is doing and how we’re speaking normally. We can be a better person with our teammates. They can know we’re speaking English and they can talk with us Latin guys a lot more.”


The Mets set up their prospects with Spanish classes in the Dominican. Buttó attended them daily, but he still wasn’t always confident speaking English in the United States until about two years ago. And really, he didn’t need to. There are always plenty of Spanish-speaking players and coaches in the minor leagues, especially at the lower levels.

Even at the big league level, teams employ full-time translators, which the CBA mandates. The translators often help them in team meetings, but Butto wanted to be able to talk to his catchers and Alvarez his pitchers. They also wanted to interact with teammates without relying on a middleman for communication.

“I feel really comfortable and it’s helped,” Buttó said. “Sometimes, two years ago, people want to talk to you and you don’t know what they’re going to say. You feel like, wow, this is different. But now, I feel really good.”

Alvarez made it a priority once he reached the Major Leagues and the 22-year-old showed an impressive aptitude early in his quest to learn another language. The pitchers appreciated his eagerness to communicate, with high-profile arms like Max Scherzer commending him for his use of English as a rookie.


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