Owatonna Baseball holds bilingual informational meeting

Owatonna ELL toman una foto duespes de beisbol.
Owatonna ELL toman una foto duespes de beisbol.
Jose Rosas

For the average high school student, committing to play a high school sport can bring about many challenges. This can include self-success, team, and even life challenges. However, for Ebdin Gonzalez Zarate, Stheyner Rivas Ovalles, and some other new OHS students, their shared passion for baseball has pitched a different challenge; the challenge of adapting to a whole new world.

The Owatonna Baseball Program this year has taken the initiative to try to support and facilitate the inclusion of English Language Learners (ELL). On Wednesday, Dec. 20 OHS ELL learners interested in playing baseball this season met with the Owatonna Baseball Program and discussed how the program operates, the handbook, and what prior experience they had playing baseball. In the past, this language barrier has stopped and prevented many OHS students from participating in Owatonna sports. 

Owatonna Head Coach Tate Cummins said, “We started seeing a number of students in the hallways and then upon looking further into it, understanding that they had some passion for the game… and thought to reach out to see if there is further interest.” The team then held the first bilingual informational meeting in OHS Baseball history. While baseball might be a just sport to some, for the program and these students this initiative is a way to connect the community in ways that hadn’t before.


Baseball adds a second language to the rotation

Ebdin Gonzalez practices his pitching for the start of the Owatonna Baseball season. (Jose Rosas)

Ebdin Gonzalez was born and raised in Mexico. Gonzalez and his family moved to Owatonna this year. Gonzalez has been attending the new high school as a freshman and learning about the Owatonna spirit that comes with Gonzalez said, “When I first got here I didn’t believe this was a school, especially the one I would be going to. Everyone was so nice to me and it seemed like this school was from one of those movies you see as a little kid.”

Growing up Gonzalez loved to play outside, but especially loved to play baseball.

Gonzalez said, “I remember waking up and going out almost every weekend with my uncles and friends to go play and always had a blast doing it.”

Throughout the Owatonna community, baseball has been a big part of the community through its various state titles and annual baseball-style events hosted throughout the town. 

“One thing that I really hoped when I got here was that I could find other people who enjoyed the game like I did. To my surprise, this town loved the sport like I did and it made me happy and excited” Gonzalez said.

The Owatonna community hopes to welcome Gonzalez to the community.

Gonzalez said, “I didn’t expect to be able to play baseball here without being able to understand anyone or speak with anyone, and then the people reached out and said they would love me to. It meant a lot to me.” 


Rivas swinging down the barrier

Stheyner Rivas Ovalles practicing hitting in preparation for the Owatonna Baseball season. (Jose Rosas)

Stheyner Rivas Ovalles is also a freshman this year at Owatonna High School. Rivas grew up in Venezuela and moved to Owatonna this year. Through the ELL initiative of the Owatonna Baseball Program, Rivas has gotten the opportunity to play baseball in off-season training for the Huskies and to be a part of one of the high school teams.

Rivas said, “I hope on the team I can learn a little English and make some more friends.” 

Throughout his time in the USA, Rivas has discovered his interest in the sport of baseball and how to connect with others with this newfound passion.

Rivas said, “Back home I used to play soccer a lot, but when I got here all my friends talked about baseball and that kind of sparked my interest in wanting to know more about it.”

Rivas quickly learned not only that his new friends seemed passionate about baseball, but the whole Owatonna Baseball Program was very dedicated and passionate about their success. Rivas said, “They have these really big machines I’ve used and I kinda thought this school must love baseball with all this fancy equipment.”

“I hope on the team I can learn a little English and make some more friends.” 

— Stheyner Rivas

Owatonna Sports has always taken pride in its success in academics and sports, ensuring its students have the best tools to succeed. 

For Rivas, Gonzalez, and other ELL students, this initiative will allow them to grow the Owatonna community and help show their passion for something the Owatonna community loves.

Owatonna Baseball captain Noah Truelson said, “I think it’s awesome, It makes me realize how baseball is played all over the world and how amazing of a game it is. It has also been fun getting to know them and realizing how much they love the game of baseball.”

The Owatonna Baseball season will officially start in April.

Editor’s note: These interviews were originally conducted in Spanish with translation by the writer.