Bilingual Rios becomes a bridge in the clubhouse
Edwin Rios was promised a better future nearly 20 years ago when he arrived in Florida.
Then age 5 and having grown up in Puerto Rico, Rios did not know a single word of English. His parents felt it was important to learn the language because it was the best path to a good education.
And he could still play baseball.
Rios found his way on the baseball diamond as he spent hour after hour in school working to learn a new language.
Now 24, Rios is a bridge in the Oklahoma City Dodgers clubhouse as a bilingual power-hitting left-hander who is a jokester and the self-proclaimed DJ in a clubhouse full of young, promising talent.
“It’s honestly amazing,” Rios said without a hint of an accent
before Wednesday’s series opener with Salt Lake at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
“I see both sides. That’s why I’m the big DJ. I have my Spanish music and I have my English music. I have guys in there from the Dominican and stuff like that where sometimes they can’t get their point across or can’t communicate, but I’m here. I can help them with that, so it’s awesome just to be able to help others and translate. It’s all of that hard work my parents put in for us.”
Rios has made plenty of noise with his bat throughout his professional career. He had a huge spring, belting two long homers to center field. It was his first big league camp, a sign he was nearing a chance in Los Angeles before the injury occurred.
He entered Wednesday having hit safely in 10 of his 14 games since rejoining the team from an injury that cost him the first two months of the season. He leads the Dodgers with three homers in June.
But his role in the clubhouse may be even more important.
Rios’ locker is perched between veteran Rob Segedin and Henry Ramos. He lives with Ramos, a fellow Puerto Rican who has also learned some English, and they live 20 minutes apart in the offseason. Rios being back brings comfort to Ramos.
“I’ve got English just for the fans,” Ramos said. “But when I have to explain something to the coaches I bring Rios in because I want to say everything he understands.
“We’re like brothers. He’s always happy, he’s got good energy, he’s always happy, he’s always a good teammate.”
For other players, the energy has picked up in the clubhouse.
Rios plays all sorts of music in pregame if he’s able. He cracks jokes with everybody.
“We kinda missed him the first two months or whatever when he was in Arizona,” Segedin said. “We were all waiting for him to get back because he’s a great teammate. He communicates with everyone and is friends with everybody.”
Now Rios is trying to complete the dream his parents started 19 years ago. He has learned multiple positions hoping he can get a shot in Los Angeles. Wednesday, he started at third base. He can play first base and in the outfield as well.
“It was a journey,” Rios said. “It worked out. I can’t thank (my parents) enough for what they did for me and my brothers.”
Edwin Rios (24) of the Oklahoma City Dodgers drives in a run during a Triple-A baseball game between the Oklahoma City Dodgers and the Salt Lake Bees at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark on Wednesday.