BALTIMORE –- After Henry Urrutia’s game-winning home run on Wednesday night, Urrutia said he got lots of calls.
There were calls to congratulate him for hitting the home run and for his postgame interview.
Urrutia, a Cuban defector who came to the United States less than 2 ½ years ago, has mastered English, and is comfortable in speaking it.
“The people who know are very surprised because two years ago, I don’t [speak] any English. I am very proud of myself. You have to learn if you want to live in this country. If you want to talk to your teammates, your coaches, your manager, with you guys. It’s very important to speak English,” Urrutia said.
Urrutia credits his wife, Suse and his stepson, who are both fluent in English. He lives in Sarasota, Fla., he points out, not Miami, where many Cubans live. In Miami, it’s easy to get around knowing only Spanish.
Two years ago, Urrutia used translators. Now his English is so good he’ll be able to translate for other players who need the help.
“I don’t want another person here behind me supporting me. I feel comfortable when I can talk to you and you can talk to me. I feel more real, the conversation,” Urrutia said.
Manager Buck Showalter was keen on the player he sometimes jokingly refers to as “Hank” from the start. He’s been thrilled with his adaptability.
“When it’s all said and done in the whole scheme of life, it’s about the human being. He’s bettered his life and his family’s life and the people he left behind,” Showalter said.
“We do classes. We do everything…But you have to speak it. You have to be around it, and you have to apply it. You have to make yourself do it, and Henry did it. I’m shocked at how quickly he picked it up coming from Cuba…He started picking up baseball terminology and then he went into the language.”
In Feb. 2013, Urrutia and Orioles Dominican Academy director Felipe Alou, Jr. walked into a conference room to introduce the newest Oriole to the press.
“The first time in this country when I saw you guys in front of me, everybody was looking at me in that moment. I never see this moment. I was totally nervous,” Urrutia said.
Alou translated for Urrutia. It’s no longer necessary.
“It was really difficult for me. When I remember that, now I am speaking like this. I am very proud,” Urrutia said.
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