Spanish interpreter Diego Ettedgui's departure leaves a void in Phillies organization

When the 2024 season gets underway, the Phillies will be missing a key figure from the past eight years.

Diego Ettedgui celebrates with Philadelphia Phillies players, NLCS Game 2
Diego Ettedgui celebrates with Philadelphia Phillies players, NLCS Game 2 / Sarah Stier/GettyImages
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When the Philadelphia Phillies take the field in spring training in February, they’ll be without one of their most vital people in the organization and a clear fan favorite — and it's not because of player movement in free agency. 

After eight years as the Spanish language interpreter for the Philadelphia Phillies, Diego Ettedgui is moving on to another career.  

When announcing the move in early December, he told Crossing Broad: "For eight years I lived a life that not even in my wildest dreams I could have imagined. It was an absolute honor to work for a top-class organization which also happens to have the best fans in baseball. I want to thank the Phillies phamily ... I will forever be grateful and love them."

Ettedgui, who was born in Venezuela, went to Massachusetts to enroll in an English course when he was 18 years old. After his family urged him to stay in the States as they feared for his safety, he enrolled in college. After trying out a few jobs, he eventually found himself taking a communications course to try to help pave his path to his dream job in the sports industry. 

From there, he worked his way into being an assignment editor for a Spanish newspaper, along with doing sports radio and TV segments. His career snowballed from there, as he eventually landed his own show covering the Boston Celtics and Red Sox. 

When he applied for interpreter roles ahead of the 2016 season, he ended up talking to the Red Sox and Phillies. After an initial interview, the Phillies gave him a four-day trial in Spring Training — they extended him a job offer after only three days. 

Since 2016, each MLB team has been required to have a full-time Spanish language interpreter on its staff. Before then, it was often coaches or other players stepping in to help translate. 

At the time, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com spoke with Juan Samuel, then-third base coach for the Phillies, who noted that the change would free up some time for him to focus more fully on coaching while also helping the players feel more comfortable to have a dedicated translator to speak with about more personal things.

According to Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com, on Opening Day in 2023, 30.2 percent of players were Latino or Hispanic. As the league becomes more and more diverse, it needs to continue to be the priority of the league and each team to ensure every member of an organization has resources like reliable translators available to them. 

In 2017, Paul Mifsud, who was vice president and deputy general counsel of labor relations and player programs for the league, noted how young players coming from the Dominican Republic oftentimes didn’t have a formal education and were often in the young range of 16 to 18 years old, according to Stephen Gross of The Morning Call. 

He connected those factors to the fact that, more often than not, those players didn't have the leverage to be able to negotiate a contract so that the organization would be responsible for covering the cost of translation services. 

The new rule instituted for the 2016 season ensured all Spanish-speaking players in an organization would have access to those vital communication services in their day-to-day lives, on and off the field. 

The impact of Ettedgui's presence and work over the years hasn't gone unnoticed by the front office or the players.

"The language barrier is thicker than we care to realize sometimes. We take for granted that even if somebody's first language isn't English, they still fully comprehend what is being said," general manager Sam Fuld told Anthony SanFilippo of Crossing Broad earlier this year. 

Also talking to SanFilippo, current Phillies reliever Seranthony Domínguez spoke about his personal feelings on having Ettedgui available: "I understand about 80 percent of what you guys ask, and most of the time it's easy to answer, but if there's a word I don't know, I can just ask him and it makes it easier to give the right answer. And sometimes, I want to say something in English, and I don't know the word, so I ask Diego and he tells me, and so I learn some new English from him too."

While with the Phillies, Ettedgui — who took part in postgame interviews as an interpreter when needed — wasn't hesitant to get in on the fun.

After the Phillies' 2-1 win against the Toronto Blue Jays on May 10, infielder Edmundo Sosa and Ettedgui were ready when Brandon Marsh approached them from behind during the interview with the broadcast crew:

Following the team’s victory on Oct. 4 to win its National League Wild Card series over the Miami Marlins, he was involved once again, making sure managing partner John Middleton got his fair share of the celebratory beverage bath in the clubhouse:

His role extended beyond postgame laughs, though. 

A 6abc Action News report outlined how his duties had expanded over the years beyond verbal translating, to include things like being on the field for batting practice and warmups, managing the distribution of the PitchCom transmitters to players, translating written materials, and attending any and all outings when the players might need translation services, like doctor appointments. 

A prominent dugout fixture who routinely cheered on the whole team, Ettedgui spoke with Geisha Torres about his role with the organization in 2022:

When asked about his drive and work ethic by 6abc Action News in September, months ahead of his departure, he replied: "It doesn't matter what you are, what position you hold. You always have to give your best effort, your max effort. Always try to be the best at whatever you do." 

Now, for the first time since 2015, fans at the ballpark and those watching through their screens won't have the opportunity to see Ettedgui on the field and in the dugout. At this time, there is no word on who will fill the vacant role in the Phillies organization.

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