The use of Spanish in public schools remains a hot button issue across America, yet it seems to burn brightest in states with very high Hispanic populations like Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico. Now some of those tensions may be boiling over to the playing fields in at least one of those aforementioned states.
As reported by the Albuquerque Journal, the Gadsden (N.M.) High baseball team was threatened with widescale ejections by an umpire when it communicated in Spanish during a game at Alamogordo (N.M.) High. According to the Journal, the incident started when the first base umpire told the Gadsden first -- who remains unnamed in all reporting on the issue to date -- to stop speaking Spanish to his teammates.
“Anyone who speaks Spanish -- coaches or players -- will be ejected,” said first base referee Corey Jones, sources at the game told the Journal.
Naturally, the Gadsden coaching staff didn’t take kindly to having one of their key players called out for something that, in their view, was perfectly legal. One coach, Gadsden assistant Emmanuel Burciaga, immediately challenged the umpire to defend his player. The interchange was a testy one, as chronicled by the New Mexico newspaper.
Burciaga said he told Jones, “Our players will not stop speaking Spanish, and they will not be ejected.”
He said Jones then “came walking toward me and said, ‘Another word from you, Coach, and you will be ejected.’ ”
The home plate umpire, who is bilingual, intervened in the mid-game conflict and told Jones there was no rule prohibiting players from speaking Spanish on the field, Burciaga said.
While the umpire may have taken umbrage to not understanding what the players were saying, the home plate umpire said that he would stop any foul language between the teams.
Meanwhile, there are clear reasons why the foreign language communication is necessary, none more obvious than the demographic makeup of the Gadsden School District, which is near the Mexico border and counts a student population that is literally 97 percent Hispanic. To help defend their and other schools’ opportunity to feature teams that communicate in Spanish, Gadsden plans to file a complaint with the New Mexico Athletic Association about the incident involving Jones and Burciaga.
For his part, Burciaga said that he isn’t attempting to get Jones fired, but hopes to educate the umpire to keep other teams from being affected by his decisions in an area where many feature students who speak Spanish first at home.
“Things like this shouldn’t happen on the baseball field,” the assistant coach told the Journal. “If we don’t say anything, it’s bound to happen again, and that’s what we want to prevent.”
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