PAWTUCKET â€” The sight of Jose Iglesias and J.C. Linares engaging in playful banter in their native tongue often leads to one or both players breaking out into mischievous smiles. Usually the exchange is often loud enough that everyone in the PawSox clubhouse is aware that Iglesias and Linares are up to their old tricks.
Then again, not everyone can understand what is actually being discussed, so itâ€™s like Iglesias and Linares are the only ones in the room, operating in a universe that only a select few have the privilege of completely understanding.
Given their open and free-flowing disposition itâ€™s little wonder that Iglesias and Linares have lockers that are nearby one another, the corner of the home clubhouse serving as a reunion of sorts between two countrymen who traveled nearly identical paths in the pursuit of playing professional baseball in the United States.
Iglesias and Linares hail from Havana, Cuba with Iglesias noting that Linares grew up 20 miles away â€“ roughly the same amount of driving distance between Woonsocket and Cranston. Each sought to vacate their native country with Iglesias defecting while playing on a Cuban team that competed in 2008 World Junior Championships in Edmonton, Alberta.
In the case of Linares, he went on to establish residency in Mexico just prior to signing with the Red Sox in July 2010. About a month later, Linares found himself in Double-A Portland, reconnecting with a familiar face.
â€śAfter I defected, I didnâ€™t keep in touch with him until I saw (Linares) in 2010,â€ť Iglesias was saying Wednesday. â€śHere we were, together and playing for the same organization, which is nice.
â€śWe know where we come from and what we have to do in order to learn the culture,â€ť Iglesias continued.
The roots between Iglesias and Linares run deep. As a 16-year-old, Iglesias played on the same Cuban team as Linares, who has six years on his flashy counterpart.
â€śI was the youngest guy on that (2008 Cuban squad),â€ť said Iglesias, who hit leadoff for the fifth consecutive game Wednesday, as PawSox manager Arnie Byeler continues the process of securing additional at-bats for the shortstop prospect after the 22-year-old missed most of June with a back injury.
See IGLESIAS, page C3
In an effort to repay Linares for looking out for him when they were Cuban teammates, Iglesias is assisting his Cuban brethren with the English language.
â€śAny time I can teach him a new word, I do it,â€ť says Iglesias. â€śIâ€™m trying to help him as much as I can, no question.â€ť
Beyeler has noticed the special bond thatâ€™s in place between Iglesias, Linares and all of the Spanish-speaking players on Pawtucket.
â€śIâ€™m sure having someone around thatâ€™s familiar and has a few things in common helps out,â€ť Beyeler said. â€śItâ€™s always good for those guys to have someone they can go to and discuss things with.
â€śWhatâ€™s even more important is that (Linares) doesnâ€™t speak English as well as Iggy (Iglesias). Itâ€™s important for J.C. to have that buffer system,â€ť Beyeler continued. â€ś(Pitcher) Tony (Pena Jr.) and (backup catcher) Mike (Rivera) are also guys who also help out a lot, so you canâ€™t beat it.â€ť
Iglesias smiled when asked about the fast start Linares has enjoyed since the latter reached Pawtucket on June 22. Linares carried a .316 average into action Wednesday and was able to extend his hitting streak to six games with a base knock in the fifth inning.
â€śHe did a very good job in Portland [Linares hit .333 in 58 games with the Sea Dogs]. Hopefully he can stay healthy the rest of the year and keep doing what heâ€™s been doing, which has been pretty good so far,â€ť Iglesias said.