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Nutshell: Breaking barriers and building relationships

Eric Silva's love of learning Spanish has led to great friendships
July 9, 2024

Immediately after being drafted at 18 years old, Flying Squirrels pitcher Eric Silva felt he was in a different world at the San Francisco Giants spring training complex.

Immediately after being drafted at 18 years old, Flying Squirrels pitcher Eric Silva felt he was in a different world at the San Francisco Giants spring training complex.

As Silva sat at his locker, he looked around and realized he was one of the youngest players in the clubhouse. Most of the other players were also speaking Spanish.

“Honestly, I felt lost,” Silva said. "I was just criticizing everything with my young perspective. They started ripping Spanish, and I thought I was pretty good at Spanish, but I am nowhere near the level that I need to be at. So, I kind of threw myself in there.”

He wanted to connect with his teammates in the Arizona Complex League and was fully committed to mastering the language. Silva admitted there were bumps, awkward pauses and some misinterpretations, but it was a great experience.

Building those relationships was important to Silva. He said getting along with all his teammates, no matter the language, was most important.

“If you can’t build a relationship, or at least a respectable relationship, with your teammates, how are you going to win games? How are you going to fight for each other?” Silva said. “I felt like when I built that relationship with the guys on that team, and the guys in the organization as well, I feel like I have a second family. For me personally, family is the most important thing in my life.”

Silva grew up in Southern California and played at Laguna Beach High School. He posted great numbers through three seasons, but the COVID-19 pandemic cut his junior year short.

Silva later learned that the local school district was going to be online in 2021, and possibly not have a baseball season, so he needed to find a place to play.

While Silva was talking with some friends he was training with, the idea of transferring to a new high school came up. He decided upon nearby JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. It was a private high school that offered in-person classes and was going to have a baseball season.

The decision to transfer took some convincing with Silva’s mom.

“I did some research on it because with my mother, before presenting something to her, I have to have backup information or basically build a case,” Silva said. “Like a lawyer to defend my argument.”

Silva won the case closed and enrollment in the school. He shined during his senior season and estimated that around 20 MLB teams were talking with him throughout the year, except for the Giants.

The first day of the draft passed, and Silva was not selected in the first two rounds. While at a draft party surrounded by family, he received a phone call from his agent that the Los Angeles Dodgers were interested.

Silva’s family members were Dodger fans, but he wanted to make sure he received the best opportunity. As it played out, the rival Giants swooped in to draft him in the fourth round. Silva was elated with the pick, even if it drew mixed reactions from the Dodger fans in the room.

“I was overjoyed, just ecstatic,” Silva said. "I was tearful, everyone was crying and sobbing. The emotions of draft day, an experience that I will never forget, and it will live in my heart forever.”

Once he was immersed in professional baseball and building up his Spanish, he befriended his current Flying Squirrels teammates catcher Adrián Sugastey and pitcher José Cruz.

Sugastey was Silva’s roommate while the two played with the Low-A San Jose Giants in 2022. They would converse in their non-native languages and help one another. It was always a no-shame environment and an opportunity to learn.

Cruz and Silva shared a similar relationship and have become best friends. Silva said it was hard at first to understand the fast-talking Cruz, but he continued to grow with every conversation.

Now, Silva can find a connection with everyone in the clubhouse. Being bilingual, he can facilitate more information with teammates and create new relationships.

“Every single day I come here, I’m grateful to be coming into an awesome facility with great guys to converse with in different languages,” Silva said. “It’s also cool because I get to see the birth of a new relationship, and I get to see the comradery firsthand between two other guys.”

Favorite sports stadium? – SoFi Stadium

What’s your signature dish? – Penne vodka pasta

What is your favorite pitch to throw? – Fastball! Nothing better than gripping and ripping a heater by a hitter.

What’s the best movie of all time? – Oppenheimer

Besides Richmond, what has been your favorite place to play? – San Jose, California (close to home)

Favorite player growing up? – Rafael Furcal

Most inspirational people in your life? – My mother and Kobe Bryant