For Alex Bregman, a new way to communicate

Alex Bregman learned Spanish to better communicate with teammates like Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. David J. Phillip/AP Photo

What could a Jewish baseball sensation from New Mexico, a Puerto Rican phenom from Santa Isabel, a member of a Cuban baseball royal family and a Venezuelan prodigy possibly have in common?

For one, they speak the same language.

Alex Bregman has managed to develop an unbreakable bond with his Latin Houston Astros teammates, particularly fellow infielders Carlos Correa, Yulieski Gurriel and Jose Altuve, by bridging the communication gap and learning to speak Spanish.

"[Hablo con ellos] más español, un poquito en inglés, pero hablo en español porque quiero aprender," Bregman says, in a well-constructed sentence in Spanish: [I speak to them] mostly in Spanish, and a little English, but mostly in Spanish because I want to learn.

The talented third baseman started learning the language when he was a child. He studied it in school and practiced in his hometown of Albuquerque, a city in which almost half the population is of Latino heritage.

"He really impresses every day," shortstop Correa says. "He learns a new word every day and is always telling jokes in Spanish."

Bregman is the starting third baseman in an infield filled with some of MLB's biggest Latino stars, and his ability to communicate with them in their native tongue has been key for their play on the field -- and their relationships off it, says Astros coach and interpreter Alex Cintron.

"There are a lot of Latinos in this team, and it helps him bond and be one of the boys, being able to speak the language and understanding it."

Pitcher Lance McCullers, who is half Cuban and grew up in the heavily Latino-populated Tampa area, admits he's a little envious.

"I am definitely jealous. He has worked very hard at it. It doesn't come out of nowhere," McCullers says. "He's probably worked much harder than I've actually worked to be able to speak the language fluently."

Not all his teammates are as easily impressed. Outfielder George Springer, whose mom is Puerto Rican, likes to tease Bregman about his Spanish -- Springer says he understands the language better than Bregman but that Bregman speaks it better. But ...

"He thinks his Spanish is good. He sounds terrible when he says it. But to his credit, he knows it's just terrible," jokes Springer, who then follows up with his admiration for the hard work Bregman has put in to learn the language.

"We might have to have a Spanish speak-off. Is that a thing? He knows more words than I do. I understand it, but he knows more words. I can't put things together. There's way too many confusing things."

Bregman explains the main reason he decided to continue to make an impact on his teammates.

"It's very important for me because I want to be a leader," he says. "It's important for my friends from Latin America. Hopefully one day in the future I can be like Carlos Correa," who is bilingual.

Puerto Rican catcher Juan Centeno says Bregman's goals of relating to his teammates are now more easily accomplished, since he has firsthand knowledge of the challenges Latino players in the United States have long faced to communicate with their teammates.

"Us Latinos, we come from other countries without knowing English, and we come here and we have to learn the language," Centeno says. "I think [what Bregman is doing] is very important for the team's relationship, for communication on and off the field."