Black Bears’ Siri helps Spanish-speaking teammates adjust to life in the U.S.

GRANVILLE — Raul Siri had a difficult time transitioning from the Dominican Republic to the United States when he signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates, in 2013.

The language barrier from Spanish to English took a while to get over, but other Spanish-speaking players who had been around the block took Siri under his wing and helped him learn English as a second language.

This season with the West Virginia Black Bears, Siri wants to return the favor as a leader, something manager Kieran Mattison hopes to get from his infield utility man.

“Siri is doing a good job with certain players on the team, it’s big having him around,” Mattison said.

This is Siri’s second season with the Black Bears, playing in 55 games last year. He hit .241 with 19 RBIs and 12 extra-base hits. He’s bounced around the Pirates organization the last four seasons, but has found consistency in West Virginia.

It’s his turn to show the newcomers — especially his Spanish-speaking teammates — the ropes.

“We had someone last year who helped embrace us to the team, so I’m trying to do the same with the guys on this team,” Siri said.

Siri credits Julio Eusebio, who was a member of the Black Bears last season but has since been released by the organization, for being the one to help him learn to speak better English.  As the Black Bears roster stands, there are 10 players, including Siri, from the Dominican Republic. Like Siri, centerfielder  Michael de la Cruz played last season at West Virginia and is a Dominican native.

“This is an opportunity because we have a lot of Latin born players and I’m trying to help them with translation and how to go around Morgantown,” Siri said. “I just want to help them as much as I can.”

Siri is off to a hot start for the Black Bears’ offense. With his versatility, he can hit anywhere in the order — in Friday’s opener, at Mahoning Valley, he hit leadoff, but hit fifth in the heart of the order Saturday. Through the first two games, Siri has  an RBI, a run scored and three hits, including two doubles.

He did rack up three strike outs Saturday, and that’s something he wants to improve on this year in hopes he can move up in the Pirates organization. He has struck out over 50 times each of the last two years.

“I want to have more consistency with my high contact,” Siri said. “My mentality is to stay positive and stay mentally tough. Going through adversity will present good in the season. I’ll try to do my best and move up, and hopefully, that does happen.”

Until that call happens, working to improve his own game while helping the new players in the organization is something Siri takes pride in and will continue to do.

“We really want to get to know everyone in the clubhouse because in the end, we’re a big family,” Siri said. “We want to know how everybody plays and we’ll have to stick together throughout the season.”

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