ROCHESTER, MINN. -- From the swing of the bat to the way the ball hits the glove: the sounds of baseball are a universal language.
“Baseball is pretty much the same thing all around the world,” Rochester Honkers catcher Chris Ceballos said.
Just ask Honkers pitcher Chia-Ching (Justin) Ho.
“Baseball lets us draw closer,” Ho said. “No need for words.”
If it looks like the Honkers are texting before a game: it’s because they kind of are.
Thanks to Google Translate, Ho’s limited English has not slowed down his 7,000 mile transition from Taiwan to Minnesota. However, during games players must put their phones away, and while the Northwoods League did give the Honkers permission to use Google Translate on the mound with Ho: the team’s manager Trevor Hairgrove has not yet needed to use it.
“He’s actually starting to get sentences down,” Ceballos said. “We use a lot of hand gestures.”
Ho’s desire to learn English is evident, often practicing his teammates names before games by reading the lineup card. He even has a few favorite sentences down pat.
“Honkers win!” Ho said. “Every day Honkers win.”
While the wins haven’t come as often as he would like this season on the mound, off of it, he’s undoubtedly won the hearts of his teammates.
“He’s always smiling, he’s always cracking jokes,” Hairgrove said. “I think that lightens the mood. It makes it that much better knowing that this is still a game. It’s a privilege to be here, and he’s happy to be here. It keeps these guys happy.”
“I like when everyone’s happy,” Ho said.
Happy to be halfway around the world following his dream, even if he’s become the team’s go-to chiropractor in the process. Before every game, Ho’s teammates line up to be stretched out by him.
“He’s really good at it,” Hairgrove said. “He might want to think about charging these guys a few bucks.”
Make no mistake though, Ho’s sights are still firmly set on following his dream.
“A, Double A, Triple A, MLB,” Ho said.
A path so precious, the phrase: “Don’t forget your original goal” is tattooed on his arm -- in English.
“I like America,” Ho said. “It’s my dream.”