"We watch,'' Rodriguez said. "We use, like, body language. We use that, and it's good."
New approach, new success
Manager Buck Showalter emphasizes team chemistry, and he is in a continuous team-building mode. He takes a tremendous amount of pride in the way the Orioles came together during the surprising 2012 playoff run and the way they held it together to stay in contention until late in the 2013 season.
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So it meant a lot to him to hear that both Chen and Yoon never felt uncomfortable in their new surroundings. It wasn't an accident.
"It's no reflection on me,'' Showalter said. "It has something to do with the people in our locker room. There's no hazing. We talk about it all the time. One of the greatest things that ever happened in my experience was going to Venezuela, going to Mexico, going to the Dominican, going to Puerto Rico, going to South Korea. I've been to Japan. Those first four countries for the Caribbean World Series — and all of my travels — made me realize we're not on this Earth alone. We're not the only people who can play baseball."
It wasn't so much that the Orioles suddenly realized that over the past few years. It was more a practical solution that Duquette applied to the club's lack of organizational depth.
The franchise had languished at or near the bottom of the AL East standings for 14 straight years, and yet failed to parlay their favorable draft position into an adequate talent pipeline. The recent emphasis on international player development has helped, but the current makeup of the team might be more the result of an unintended benefit of the Orioles' enhanced global reach.
When Duquette announced the signing of Jimenez and later Cruz, he acknowledged a direct link between the the club's success finding well-priced players overseas and the ability to surrender this year's top draft picks to sign two players who had received qualifying offers from their former clubs.
"The expansion of our scouting on the international market and the additions of Carlos Diaz, the first baseman we picked up from Mexico City, and Jomar Reyes, the top Dominican third baseman that we signed, I think that helps us continue to build the quality of the talent depth within our minor league system,'' Duquette said. "So there's other avenues in signing and bringing players into the organization other than just the draft.
"Now, do we want to be giving up all our draft picks every year? No, that's not something we want to be doing long-term. But we made a conscious choice to do that this year to put the resources into our pitching staff with the core. We thought that was the right choice to make. Are we going to continue to be aggressive on international scouting? Yes we are."
Many languages, one baseball
It would be easy to assume that the guy who faces the biggest challenge from such a wide array of nationalities would be catcher Matt Wieters, who will have to communicate with a 2014 pitching staff that could present a number of linguistic challenges.
Wieters isn't worried.
"The good thing is, I think, that baseball is an international language, and all the experience I've ever had with guys from different countries is they still speak 'baseball' English,'' Wieters said, "so they understand baseball in English, which makes it easy from that standpoint."
The other factor that makes a multilingual battery more manageable is the fact that the players who sign as free agents out of the higher international leagues are generally veterans with established credentials in their home countries.
"They've played for a long time, and they've had success for a long time, so they know what their strengths are, and they know what they need to do,'' he said. "It's really a matter of getting their tempo in the right place. It's as simple as slowing them down or a 'Let's go' to get them motivated kind of thing. And that's really, with most of the international players I've dealt with, that's really all you've got to do. They've had success, and they know what they need to do to have success."
The relationships don't end at the clubhouse door. Despite the cultural divisions, the players socialize together on the road and do their best to overcome their inability to engage in complex conversation.
"Oh yeah, you may be talking about two different subjects, but that's fine as long as everybody is willing to have fun with it,'' Wieters said. "That's where I think people can get in trouble, when they end up taking things too seriously instead of, 'We're different. We're going to have fun with it and try to get on the same page.'"
The international flag display that adorns the main hallway in the spring clubhouse actually features 11 flags, though really there are only nine different countries represented on the wall. Showalter also included a Maryland state flag and the flag of Greece, which reflects the common heritage of outfielder Nick Markakis and principal owner Peter G. Angelos, though both of them were born in the United States. “I wasn’t taking any chances,’’ Showalter said.