Attending Connors State helps Concepcion get ahead in life
Daniel Concepcion has a strong right arm, a friendly smile and a thirst for knowledge.
The sophomore pitcher for Connors State (Okla.) College left Dorado, Puerto Rico, two years ago, not knowing what to expect.
He didn’t speak much English, but with an English dictionary his constant companion, he now interprets for his teammates who are still learning a second language.
“Every time I didn’t know a word I’d go through the dictionary, just practice, practice every day,” Concepcion said Tuesday after the third-ranked Cowboys (53-11) were eliminated from the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series with a 3-1 loss to Cochise (Ariz.) College.
“Every night in my room by myself I’d always go through the words I didn’t know, and that’s how I learned English.”
Concepcion, who took the loss Tuesday, said he didn’t take any classes to help him expand on the basic English he learned growing up in Dorado. His hometown on the north coast of the island has become a resort village, but “I live in the countryside,” he said, his quick smile revealing braces on his teeth.
“I just did it all by myself,” he said of learning a second language. “Actually, my first year we had a guy who knew pretty good English, and every time I didn’t know a word I asked him. We took the same classes, so he could help me. After that I just found a way to understand the language.”
Two years after arriving in Warner, Okla., Concepcion will leave with a two-year degree and a scholarship to play baseball at Virginia Commonwealth University.
“He’s such a wonderful kid; he came here and couldn’t speak very much English, now he speaks fluent English, he graduated on time,” Connors State coach Perry Keith said. “That’s what this is all about.”
Concepcion plans to become a physical therapist, with aspirations of professional baseball after two years with the Rams. He finished his second year at Connors State 7-2 with a 3.20 ERA. He struck out seven batters Tuesday, giving him 78 for the season.
“It was a really good experience,” he said of pitching in the JUCO World Series. “In front of a big crowd, this is my first time playing in front of so many people. I like it when people are (cheering), it gets me pumped.”
All week, Concepcion translated for teammates during interviews with the media, and he said he encourages the other Spanish-speaking players to continue to work to learn English.
“If I know two languages, that’s going to be a better value to find jobs and in life,” he said. “Even here, I know some of the guys don’t know English, they come to me and ask me. I can help them (learn). That’s a plus in life.”
He knows what the younger players have gone through making the adjustment to living in the United States and attending college.
“At the beginning I was kind of lost. After the first month, I was going, ‘What am I doing over here?’ ” he said. “I didn’t know about the decision I made. I thought, ‘This is not for me.’ “
Then he thought again about his goals in life.
“I had to find a way to be successful,” he said.
Concepcion isn’t sure what his future will bring, whether that’s staying in the United States or returning to Puerto Rico. Whether he gets a chance to play pro ball will make that a little more clear in a couple of years.
“I just used it as a start to complete my education,” he said of college baseball. “If I played baseball, they could pay for my education. I came over here thinking of my education, and after my education if I can go pro, that’s a plus.
“Even if I don’t make it to professional ball, I know in life I’m going to be just fine.”