Second language first priority for Iglesias

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Second language first priority for Iglesias

Jose Iglesias spoke two languages when he defected from Cuba in 2008: Spanish and baseball.

Over the last four years, Iglesias has challenged himself to become fluent in English as well. It is just as much of a priority as it is to become part of the Boston Red Sox.

The 22-year-old shortstop sees the two going hand-in-hand. He believes better communication can lead to better play on the field.

Its good for me, for my career, for my development, for my communication with my teammates. I live here in the United States so I have to speak in English, Iglesias said. It was a little difficult in the beginning because you cant communicate really well with your teammates. But its a process. Right now I feel better, I can talk a little bit with my teammates, were hanging out a little more.

This spring training, Iglesias was noticeably more comfortable speaking English than he was at the end of last season. Rather than sitting at his locker and watching conversations from afar, he approached his teammates to be part of the chatter.

Engaging in small talk is just one way Iglesias works on improving his English. During the offseason he also exchanged text messages with his teammates and went to the movies to see English-language films (comedies are his favorite). He jokes that his winter home of Miami is the worst place to learn a second language because Spanish is widely spoken, but he makes it a point to speak in English there as much as possible.

Iglesias teammates have taken notice to the improvement in his communication during the offseason.

Hes a very smart kid and hes willing to learn, said shortstop Mike Aviles. Not just in baseball, but in the transition from Cuba to here in America. That alone, he has that drive on the inside of him that helps him get better at everything and I think thats a big part of it. I know he can communicate very well in the Spanish language and it kind of maybe bothers him to not be able to communicate like he wants to in English. I think that little bit of bother is what drives him to pick up the language and actually try harder. Hes done an unbelievable job.

In all honesty, sometimes a lot of guys are timid to step outside the box and in his case hes not shy at all. Hes a very outgoing person and if you get to know him in his native language, you can tell how outgoing and energetic he is. He wants to be the same person that he is speaking Spanish as he is speaking English. I think thats the big drive behind all of it for him.

For second baseman Dustin Pedroia, communicating with Iglesias is critical to their success together on the field. He praised Iglesias for wanting to learn English early on in his career.

When he signed, he roomed with Nate Spears, said Pedroia. A lot of times when guys come over here, they room with Latin guys so they can feel more comfortable. But Iggy wanted to make sure that he started learning English right away. Its good for him. Its smart . . . I need him to speak English because I dont speak Spanish. But hes learning, hes doing a great job. Hes still young. Hes learning every day.

When it comes to his bilingual teammates, Iglesias speaks to them in English instead of relying on their common understanding of Spanish. Aviles, who is of Puerto Rican descent, noted Iglesias is not afraid to ask questions to further his learning.

Its kind of like an exchange program, said Aviles. Sometimes my Spanish doesnt quite come out the way I want it and hell help me with it. And theres times, too, when he wants to say something in English and Ill explain, you say it like this, and hes like, 'All right, cool.'

I always come back with random one-liners when people say things to me, like sarcasm, and so he was asking me about that the other day. He said, Youve got to help me with some of the sarcasm stuff. That willingness to learn, in that sense, hes like that on the field and off the field. I think thats a big part of his development.

Iglesias will start this season in Triple-A Pawtucket but is expected to see playing time at Fenway Park. With a place on the team would come an increase in media exposure. Iglesias is aware of the importance in being able to communicate effectively with reporters.

We are on a special team and in a special media, he said. We have a lot of media here so you have to get better in your language because you have to be able to communicate, to say the right thing in the right moment. But I think I feel good with that. Im doing better. Not 100 percent, not perfect, but better.

In the meantime, he has tried to share some of his native language with his teammates.

Pedroia sometimes says some words like, Im youre papa, Iglesias said, smiling. I try to teach him a couple words, but no chance (laughs).

No matter which language he says it in, Pedroia and his Red Sox teammates are happy with the improvements they have seen in the young shortstop.

He wants to be good, said Pedroia. He wants to be great. You pull for guys who work that hard. Some guys just have to work hard on the field. He has to work hard off the field just to learn stuff. So were all pulling for him.

Curran: Patriots are likely to finish unbeaten this season

Curran: Patriots are likely to finish unbeaten this season

FOXBORO -- Resistance is futile. 

You see this team out there scampering around from drill to drill on a cloudy, late-July day, not a lollygagger to be seen, everything moving with military precision, and you know what it looks like? 

It looks like 80-something players and a coaching staff starting NFL training camp. 

What is it really? It's the first day of work for the NFL's greatest dynasty as it embarks on what will likely be a historic campaign. 

Never mind "may." Never mind "has a chance." It is LIKELY the Patriots will be the first team to ever win 19 games in a single NFL season. 

They don't want to hear that and are already dousing the thought of perfection by labeling it stupid, ridiculous, or disrespectful.

Between now and the start of the season, a parade of indignant former players, coaches and executives will snort and chortle at how absurd the conversation is. 

Frankly, they don't know what the hell they're talking about. 

That won't stop all of them from scoffing at the prospect of 19-0 the same way Curtis Strange scoffed at Tiger Woods back in 1996 when Woods said coming in "second sucks and third is worse." You'll learn, Strange said. 

Strange learned. Everybody learned. Maybe the experts should have seen it coming with Tiger. Maybe not. 

But with the 2017 Patriots, a failing to see what's likely to happen means willfully ignoring facts to do it. The Patriots went 17-2 last year. They lost to Buffalo because their third-string quarterback's thumb was dangling. They lost to Seattle on a night they handed the ball to the Seahawks repeatedly and still were at the Seattle 1-yard line with 30 seconds left with a chance to send the game to overtime but came away with nothing. 
 
They played poorly in the AFC Divisional Playoff against Houston and won by 18. They played "meh" against the Steelers in the AFC Championship and led 33-9 after three quarters. (Don't "But Le'Veon Bell" me. Would Le'Veon Bell have been covering Chris Hogan? No? Okay. Pay attention). 

In the Super Bowl, they spotted Atlanta -- a team being favorably compared to the Greatest Show on Turf Rams -- 25 points, and they wiped out that 25-point deficit in 23 minutes of play. 

Since they walked off the field in Houston, they added a Pro Bowl corner named Stephon Gilmore to play opposite their other Pro Bowl corner, Malcolm Butler. They added a wide receiver named Brandin Cooks, who caught 162 passes the past two seasons for 2,311 yards and 17 touchdowns. And they will also unveil once again the best tight end of his generation, Rob Gronkowski. 

They have a head coach who is definitely the best of the free agency era, probably the best of the Super Bowl era and arguably the best of all time. Their quarterback has even fewer qualifiers around his greatness and legacy. 

The crème de la crème of the rest of the league is sludge. Smug Aaron Rodgers is tethered to the moon-faced buffoon in Green Bay, Mike McCarthy, a head coach who could overcomplicate ordering coffee. In Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger is fat and fresh off an offseason spent contemplating retirement and Ring Dings. The Cowboys' maturity issues start with their 70-something owner and cascade right down to their enabled superstars Ezekiel Elliott and Dez Bryant. Denver? Trevor Simien. Atlanta? Their motto this year is "Embrace the Suck." What does that even mean? That they enjoyed the Red Wedding that was the second half of the Super Bowl so much, they just want to roll around in humiliation for another year? Dear God. 

My point with all that is that there is no Peyton Manning out there to be the Frazier to Brady's Ali. And while there may be a coach out there with gray matter who could battle Belichick, that coach hasn't spent 18 seasons collecting assistants and coordinators and creating a program where they can tell a player to shit in the corner and the player asks, "What color?"

Don't fight it. Don't scoff at it. Don't be like those people who, in 2001 and 2002 were still saying Tom Brady was a product of the system and that the Patriots would rue the day they traded Drew Bledsoe within the division. Open your eyes. Think critically. What do you see.