Parlez-vous Francais? It doesn't take the ability to speak French to understand the power of Quebec native Maxim St. Pierre as the starting catcher for the Erie SeaWolves.
The 25-year-old started his minor league career in 1997 after Detroit drafted St. Pierre in the 26th round of the amateur draft. Standing at 6 ft, St. Pierre has a strong arm and, for a catcher, a climbing batting average of .278 to match. Working on his batting average seemed an easier task for St. Pierre than his first few years in the league.
"When I first signed, I was excited," St. Pierre said. "I thought I was going to go to the big leagues right away, but that wasn't the case. It just sucks because you don't have any friends and no one spoke French and I didn't have a translator."
St. Pierre didn't let a little language barrier get in the way of his dream.
"You get your chance and you've got to take advantage of it," St. Pierre said. "I learned English when I started playing baseball here. I learned by myself by reading books, watching TV a lot and my dictionary book."
It took St. Pierre nearly four years to fully understand and speak English. Those four years are what truly tested St. Pierre's love for the game.
"I couldn't speak English. Baseball was more of a passion for me than anything," St. Pierre said. "I loved the game, but I had no friends and what I was going through, I didn't want to play anymore. But it was like, you know what, I love baseball. Let's show them I can play. I came back and got most improved player and kept going. I got #1 catcher of the all star game every year since."
The patience St. Pierre used to get through those four years is the same patience he's using to sky rocket his batting average.
"I could be a pitcher," St. Pierre said, "because I throw real hard. I have a great arm but [my batting average] is getting up there. I'm trying to get to .320, but I've got a long way to go. We'll see what happens. All you've got to do is hit the ball hard."
As far as being a catcher, St. Pierre wouldn't have it any other way.
"I call the pitcher the general and I'm the captain," St. Pierre said. "I feel responsible when we lose and when we win. You've got to love it to be the catcher. You can't just say – yeah, I'm going to be a catcher. No, you've got to love it. You'll work harder than anybody else on the field every day."
St. Pierre has been working hard since he started playing ball.
"My first time playing, I was really young and couldn't hit the ball. It took me seven or eight games before I could touch the ball," St. Pierre said. "My very first hit was a home run, but it was a ground ball. I hit the ground ball so hard that it went through everybody's legs."
On getting to Detroit, St. Pierre is in no rush.
"I just like being in the clubhouse. It's a lot of fun," St. Pierre said. "You travel a little bit. I mean, the money is not great, but I love baseball. I love playing.
After entering the League not knowing anyone or speaking a word of English, St. Pierre knows what it's like to be the underdog. That's why he always roots for the little guys.
"I like the underdog most of the time," St. Pierre said. "I like to put some bets and have an upset. I love it. Everybody wants to bet money on the big boys; I like to put money on the underdogs, not too low. If they have a chance to win, I'll put my money down."
Erie put their money down on St. Pierre and now he plays the waiting game. He waits for when Detroit will call and take that chance on him.