Born to parents of Puerto Rican descent in Brooklyn, NY, Washington Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez grew up speaking English, and didn’t learn to speak Spanish until after a tough experience when he was drafted and sent to Puerto Rico to play Winter Ball by the Chicago Cubs.
“So my grandmother, who only spoke Spanish, I could understand it really well,” Martinez explained when he spoke to reporters before Game 3 of the World Series on Friday night.
“I knew the basics to talk to her,” the 55-year-old, second-year manager explained.
“I got drafted as a native player in Puerto Rico, both my parents were born there. So I went there as a No. 1 pick in the draft back when I played. When I got there the cameras were on me and they started asking me questions in Spanish, I answered them in English.
“They weren’t very happy,” Martinez said with a laugh, but the reaction wasn’t funny.
“As a matter of fact, I got a six foot piece of barbed wire thrown at me in my first game I played,” he explained.
“So I took it upon myself after that to learn. And I told all my teammates, I remember Benito Santiago, those guys I played with over there, Juan Nieves, I said, ‘Hey, do not let me answer you in English.’ I said, ‘Make me, force me to speak Spanish.’ And spent two years over there.
“After the first year I came home, told my grandmother the same thing, I’ll never answer you in English again, I’ll always answer you in Spanish.”
“So I picked it up,” he continued.
“And after playing so many years and coaching with the Latin guys, I just told them, ‘Speak Spanish to me.’ Sometimes it doesn’t come out the way I want but I keep working on it.”
Nationals’ starter Aníbal Sanchez was asked before his start in Game 3 of the World Series how good Martinez’s Spanish is at this point?
“It’s good,” he said. “It’s really good. He’s got really good Spanish. He can communicate in that language perfectly. I think he can express better than in Spanish than I am in English.
“He’s really good. He’s really good. Dave, he’s special. He’s special.”