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Pena, Veras help Astros break language barriers

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros veterans Carlos Pena and Jose Veras were both honored to be able to address their fellow Latin American players at a team meeting Tuesday morning where, at the request of general manger Jeff Luhnow, they stressed the importance of learning English.

Luhnow, who was born and raised in Mexico City and speaks fluent Spanish, and bilingual bench coach Eduardo Perez were on hand as Pena and Veras spoke to an Astros Latin American contingent that is about 20 players strong.

Pena, who was born in the Dominican Republic, said he was "moved" by the gesture.

"I've been in many organizations, and this is the first time I've seen a general manager or bench coach take their time and set aside about 45 minutes to talk to the Latin players and understand there are some things that need to be addressed and need to be taken care of, instead of just taking it for granted and forgetting about them," Pena said. "I've never seen that before. Hats off to the Astros for doing something like that. It means the world to me."

Pena said that even though he moved to the U.S. at a young age, he knows how difficult it is for many Latin American players to adapt to a new culture and lean a new language.

"I came out of that meeting feeling extremely happy and excited and pleased and grateful to be in an organization that cares about Latin baseball players," Pena said.

Veras said his father placed him in English classes when he was about 14-years-old, so he knew how to speak English when he came to the U.S. He practiced by making conversation and writing letters in English to learn it better.

"I told them it will make them a better professional and a better person, too," Veras said. "When you're done playing baseball, you have another quality. You can be bilingual in any company and any store or whatever or help any GM to be able to translate."