Meet Agustin Rivero, the Guardians’ translator who wears a lot of hats (and baseball shorts).

As the Cleveland players filed onto the field for pre-game work at T-Mobile Park one afternoon in April 2019, a nondescript man in a gray sweater and pants grabbed a glove and stood on the grass in front of the players’ bench.

The coaches sent groundballs to the infielders. Hitters sprayed batting practice across the outfield. And there was Agustin Rivero taking it all in while dressed for the elements on a cool spring afternoon in Seattle.

Second baseman Jason Kipnis crouched behind the cage-at-home plate with the team’s batting coaches and coaches. He asked if anyone could snag Rivero an Indian hoodie to replace his “express outfit.”

“He looks like he just got out of substitute classes,” Kipnis said.

That was unofficially Rivero’s introduction to his new team. He had traveled a long, tortuous, intercontinental route into the big leagues, eventually landing the role of Cleveland’s major league interpreter. Since childhood, he dreamed of emerging from the dugout to warm up his arm and take part in batting practice before the fans settled into their seats at the stadium. Here he was doing just that.

Only he thought he was wearing baseball pants, not dress pants.

Rivero grew up in San Cristóbal, Venezuela, where he admired the defensive magic of Omar Vizquel, a native of his country’s capital, and the catching ability of Sandy Alomar Jr., who is now a colleague. Rivero played competitively through high school and eventually signed with the Yankees. he had an aspiration to don pinstripes as he roamed the outfield in the Bronx.

Instead, he took on a position that goes beyond translating Spanish-speaking players’ responses to English-speaking reporters’ questions. You’ll see him on the field helping with batting practice, in the coaching room as players stream into the clubhouse hours before the first pitch, or on your TV standing next to José Ramírez during a post-game interview to capture the non of third baseman to convert –“Home Run Place” Answers in English.

Rivero recalls the date of his first training session with an organized team: November 11, 1993. As a child, he dug a tire out of a storage unit in the basement of his family’s condominium complex and stuffed the floor with bricks so that the tire would stay in place and serving as his batting zone while hurling baseballs at it. When Rivero misbehaved, his parents knew the most effective means of punishment: no baseball. This kept him motivated in class and paved the way for him to graduate high school at 16.

Rivero mostly played tag with his mother, Cristina, who played softball in college. His father, also named Agustin, grew up on a farm, went to a military high school, and when he was first introduced to sports, he caught a basketball and started running, goddammit, dribbling. The blatant travel violation earned him a warning from his commander.

However, his father appreciated Rivero’s passion for baseball and gifted him his first major league experience. Rivero can still visualize his seat on the bus he rode eight hours each way to an exhibition game between Cleveland and the Astros in Valencia, Venezuela, in March 2001, a few weeks before his 13th birthday. He watched Vizquel and company split Houston 8-8 thanks to a ninth-inning home run from Astros infielder Adam Everett. The fans weren’t exactly thrilled with the draw result.

A few years later, Rivero broke into the tryout circle. He spent a month at the Mariners’ facility before they sent him home with no offer. The Dodgers later extended him an opportunity. The Yankees too. After signing with New York, he heard about the Reds and, for a second time, about the Dodgers. When it was too late, he discovered he had offers from several other teams who had contacted a scammer posing as his representative.

When Rivero joined the Yankees, Francisco Cervelli, who had spent 13 major league seasons as a catcher, mentored him and encouraged him to learn English. However, Rivero’s playing career quickly fizzled out. Humberto Trejo, a Yankees official who guided him through his early days in the Dominican Republic complex, died in a car accident. Rivero didn’t get much playing time, just 10 games in the Dominican Summer League. His confidence collapsed and he was not invited to the club’s apprenticeship league.

He wanted to hook up with another organization, and after sleeping at the Nationals complex, he convinced one of their scouts to let him audition. But the Yankees didn’t want to release him from his contract.

“I was so disappointed in baseball,” Rivero said. “You fail at your biggest thing and you’re like, ‘What do I do now?'”

Well, he ventured to Spain where he attended school and worked in a cheese company.

“That’s the happiest 20 pounds I’ve gained in my life,” he quipped.

Rivero went to Columbia University, an Ivy League school in New York City, where he was accepted into a program in the School of Public and International Affairs. He worked as a teaching assistant each semester, dabbled in financial trading by day and worked six nights a week at a high-end Chelsea restaurant. He spent his nights conjuring up his well-respected old-fashioned and dirty martinis, dreading a guest might order a hot toddy, an often messy concoction that required hot water and honey and far too much patience.

When the restaurant closed at 2 a.m., he cleaned the bar and drove 30 minutes back to Brooklyn to the cramped apartment he shared with one of the chefs. An early night meant burying your face in your pillow until 4am. His alarm clock would go off at 8 a.m. when he finished his schoolwork and then headed to classes on the Upper West Side. When he found time, he ate restaurant leftovers to save his tip from the bar.

“Either that or go back to Venezuela,” he said.

He served on the organizing committees for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, as these groups relied on his language skills in Spanish, English and Portuguese. According to his own statements, he applied for 120 positions per week until 2018. Eventually, the Cleveland front office showed interest.

Rivero flew to Arizona one night during spring 2019 training. His interviews began at 6:30 the next morning. As he entered the complex, he realized that he was meeting first with Alomar, the man whose capture stance he had modeled as a child.

“Sandy became one of my big mentors,” Rivero said. “He embodies, ‘I want to teach you. I want you to learn.” I think that comes from someone being content with what they’ve done in life. I don’t see any ego in Sandy. He is always working to help.”

Alomar and Carlos Baerga sat at high tables in the team’s dining room, pretending to be active players holding court with the media. Rivero served as her translator. He met 13 people that day, from coaches to coaches to clubhouse staff to various members of the front office – a new interview every half hour.

He had watched many Cleveland games during his childhood. In his hometown it was common to watch a game with a Venezuelan top division team on TV, often Vizquel, Carlos Guillen or Andres Galarraga.

Now he worked for the team.

Agustin Rivero (Chris Coduto / Getty Images)

Rivero acts as a reassuring presence for the club’s Latin players when reporters bombard them with questions. Many of these players can converse in English, but dictaphones and cameras can add extra pressure for someone who speaks a second language. Rivero also helps communicate messages that coaches or executives want to share with players, such as: B. Scouting reports or logistics following a promotion or demotion. Before games, he warms up practice pitchers and serves as an additional target during pregame infield drills, being thrown to either first or second base.

Teams use the Major League Translator position in different ways. In some organizations, the person works in the communications department. In other organizations they contribute on the broadcast side.

Rivero’s priority is to ensure players understand what is being asked of them. Sometimes that means advising them on housing options or knowing simple conveniences like Uber Eats. In other cases, it helps them digest advanced data or mechanical instructions that are being transmitted to them.

He wears many hats in his role with the Guardians. And finally a hoodie and baseball pants.

(Top photo of Agustin Rivero, first left, in the dugout in 2021: William Purnell / Icon Sportswire / Associated Press) Meet Agustin Rivero, the Guardians’ translator who wears a lot of hats (and baseball shorts).

Russell Falcon

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