Another feat for Elly: Giving press conferences in English

March 29th, 2024

CINCINNATI -- As one of the faces of the Reds since his big league debut in June of last season, shortstop Elly De La Cruz is often in demand for interviews and to be heard at press conferences. The only catch: De La Cruz has only spoken publicly in Spanish and needed a translator to communicate.

Until now. On Wednesday during an Opening Day eve press conference at Great American Ball Park, that was no longer the case. The 22-year-old De La Cruz wanted to do the session in English.

Not just part of it. All of it.

"It's so important to me because now you guys understand what I say, and it's important to the fans to understand me and me understand the fans," De La Cruz said. "I put a lot of work on my English to talk with you guys, and I think I'm doing a good job.”

A native of the Dominican Republic, De La Cruz previously had translator Jorge Merlos help him understand reporter questions and then relayed his answers in Spanish. Reporters would get the English translation from Merlos.

During Spring Training, De La Cruz began dabbling more and more with English responses, even if the questions were translated for him.

“I practiced every day talking with the other guys," De La Cruz said. "I just talked with them. I like talking with American guys because I create confidence."

De La Cruz had often spoken in English to members of the team. But speaking in interviews that are seen or heard by thousands, if not millions, of people adds pressure.

"I can't relate to that, the courage that that takes," Reds manager David Bell said of De La Cruz. "It's impressive, and we know that about Elly, but for other people to see that, it's nice because I want everyone to see everything I know about our players, and for Elly, that's a good example of who he is."

After Thursday's 8-2 Reds' Opening Day win over the Nationals, De La Cruz was surrounded by nearly a dozen reporters and cameras at his locker. Once again, the whole session was in English.

When Reds reliever Brent Suter learned that De La Cruz did Wednesday's whole press conference in English, the veteran left-hander was elated.

Suter knows speaking in a second language is not always an easy task.

“It’s incredibly hard," Suter said. "I went to Venezuela in 2015 and I tried to do a couple [interviews] in Spanish and ended up going right back to English. And I took seven or eight years of Spanish growing up. To be able to do that -- he’s, what, 22? -- that is really impressive. Kudos to him. It’s a really big step.”

Suter, who grew up in Cincinnati, has long been known as a media friendly player for his previous teams in Milwaukee and Colorado. He's been around a lot of players who speak Spanish over the years.

“I talked to them in Spanish, and they talked to me in English," Suter said. "I want to practice Spanish with them, selfishly. All the Latin guys I’ve played with, you can tell there’s a hunger to get better at English, which is really awesome. It’s really hard to do.”

When De La Cruz spoke in the interview room, Merlos was stationed nearby -- just in case.

“I don’t need him anymore," De La Cruz joked.

Replied Merlos: “I can leave, thank you guys.”