The Sioux City Explorers are a diverse team, with players speaking English, Spanish and Japanese. While there is a language barrier, the X's use a unique system of signs to communicate on the field.
"Picking up signs I think is the most difficult part," Wally Backman said. "But, once you play in the game long enough and you slow the game down yourself, none of it is too difficult. It's more mental than anything, so you've just got to take it all in slowly and let it happen."
"Sign language itself is universal, however signs used here is simpler than the ones used in Japan. Therefore the beginning of last year it took time to get used to it," Yusuke Inoguchi said. "This year is my second year and I am fully used to the signs."
Sometimes, the message gets lost in translation. Other times, players just miss it.
"There are three times more signs in Japan," Inoguchi added. "They like to keep it a secret and the Japanese tend to like to be precise. In Japan, I've misunderstood the sign. Here, however I've never misunderstood."
"I've missed signs in the past," Luegim Barroso said. "In the baseball field you make errors and sometimes mentally. But, I work on that to get better but I just gets the signs again and then I'm good to go."
Explorers Manager Stan Cliburn has been using the same signs for 25 years. Why? Body parts, numbers and a lot of math.
"Larry Himes, it was my first year in 1974. He was our manager, a very intelligent man and every part of my body had a number. The bill of my hat was one, nose would be two, my chin would be three, and my throat would be four. He'd go, 'What's one and two, it's three plus three is six, and go to the throat that's 10.' So not only did you have to add, you had to figure out what 10 was. 10 was a bunt and run. It was very complicated."
Only once in his managerial career has Cliburn changed things up during a game. For players, after getting signs down, adjusting on the fly can be difficult.
"It's a big adjustment when other teams pick up signs and the managers change the signs for a few hours. It's hard to adjust." Barroso said. "But, it's a game You have play well."
So, the 56-year old skipper keeps it easy on his players to avoid any miscommunication in the batters box, the base paths or on the mound.
"If you get over complicated and start confusing ball players, that's when balks happen, missed signs happen at home plate when runners are thrown out at the bases because the guy didn't protect him on a hit and run when he should have swung the bat. That's when you run into problems. That's why I try to keep them simple so they can enjoy the game, relax and play good baseball."
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