- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 28, 2007

It’s safe to say that few players had a more unique career in baseball than Orestes Destrade. At the very least, he is one of the few former players capable of having a conversation with both Manny Ramirez and Hideo Nomo in their native languages.

Destrade, who was born in Cuba and now lives in Nashville, Tenn., recently signed a new contract with ESPN and will have a regular spot on its nightly “Baseball Tonight” studio show. A veteran of both the major leagues and Japanese leagues, he’s expected to bring a special insight to the explosion of Latin and Asian talent.

“I’m not going to hype myself and say I had this phenomenal career in the major leagues, but I think the fact that I am Cuban-born, speak the English language and played in the Japanese leagues allows me to bring a lot to the broadcast,” he said. “The face of the major leagues has been ever-so changing, and I’m pleased and happy [ESPN was] able to bring me back.”

To American baseball fans, Destrade is best known as one of the top players on the original Florida Marlins, tallying 20 home runs and 87 RBI in 1993. But his stint with Florida came after five seasons of playing in Japan, where he was among the top power hitters as a member of the Seibu Lions.

Last year, Destrade made his ESPN debut on “Baseball Tonight” and also worked as an analyst at the World Baseball Classic and Little League World Series, where his knowledge of the Latin and Japanese games came in handy.

“I don’t think there’s a player out there who’s as trilingual as Orestes is, which is a huge benefit to the company,” said Jay Levy, senior coordinating producer for “Baseball Tonight.” “He’s a poster child for the internationalization of the game. He’s perfectly suited for that.”

Destrade is no stranger to broadcasting, making frequent appearances on XM Radio and working out of a studio in Nashville. He admits he’s still working to get comfortable with the faster pace of television, but he is quickly becoming the go-to guy for comments on players from Latin America and Japan. Destrade will be an important part of ESPN’s coverage of Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Japanese pitcher making his major league debut with the Boston Red Sox this year.

“I think Dice-K is going to have a solid season,” Destrade said. “When a Japanese pitcher comes on he usually does a pretty good job in the first year or year and a half. We saw it with Nomo, we saw it with [Takashi] Saito, all of them.”

When asked about his predictions for the season, Destrade called the Detroit Tigers “stacked” and said he believes the Philadelphia Phillies and San Diego Padres will battle for the National League pennant. But in between commenting about on-the-field actions, he’s just as likely to offer his opinion about other important issues in the game, particularly those relating to foreign players.

Destrade said he would like to see more translators in team clubhouses, particularly for Latin players who are drafted as teenagers. Eliminating the language barrier would help players get more comfortable with the media and reduce the chances of a miscommunication on major issues like baseball’s steroids policy.

“It’s tough, because some of these players came up at 16,” he said. “They may not even have been good with their Spanish. How can you expect them to just turn it on?”

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