Mariano Rivera was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown on Sunday — a much-deserved honor for the best closer in baseball history.

When it came time for his speech, Rivera made a joke about going last — which was perfect — but he also shared a story from his first years as a professional baseball player.

Rivera signed with the Yankees out of Panama, and in his second year, he arrived to North Carolina without knowing a word of English. The language barrier was a huge source of stress for Rivera, and he told the crowd how he cried himself to sleep numerous times before asking his teammates to help him learn English.

Rivera said:

“On my way to Tampa, 1990, I didn’t know what to expect. I was leaving my hometown, my family, my people. First time on a plane. Arriving to Miami. I don’t know where to go. No English. Thank God for the people that were there that help us.

“We got to Tampa. I don’t know what I was expecting. But God guided me through. At that time everybody, most of the guys I played with, they were Spanish, so they spoke Spanish.

“But my second year in professional baseball, I went to Greensboro, North Carolina, where not too many people spoke Spanish. I used to, at times, go to bed crying because I couldn’t communicate, couldn’t communicate with my teammates. I was frustrated. I was frustrated because no English, no relationship with my teammates, with my manager, my pitching coach. I made one of the biggest decisions and the greatest decision I made. I talked to a few of my teammates, one is here, Bob Dillard and his family. I asked them, ‘Guys, please I need to learn English.’

“‘Whatever I do, whatever things I said that is not right, please you can laugh all you want, but please teach me, teach me the right way.’ And they did. They never laughed. They never laughed.”

I realize MLB called the story “awesome,” but Rivera’s story showed how baseball has long struggled to welcome non-English-speaking players. Only in the past few years have we seen every club employ interpreters, and the Marlins are even requiring English-speaking players to take Spanish classes.

Every team should do the same.

After all, baseball is a game with international reach. Players shouldn’t have their ability to form relationships with teammates and coaches limited by a language barrier.

Rivera’s ability to overcome those systemic flaws, though, was awesome.

This content was originally published here.

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