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Somehow, Everything Was Lost in Translation

Vladimir Guerrero says he doesn’t speak or understand English. He tells me this using perfect English, while shaking his head as if he doesn’t understand what he’s saying.

So I hire an interpreter to talk to the guy, offering comedian George Lopez two bucks to work for me Saturday. Lopez agrees because he wants to keep me happy, hoping one day I might introduce him to Salma Hayek.

That’s what I like about George, he’s such a dreamer.

It’s tough for a TV star like Lopez to get up before noon, but he has received a kidney transplant from his wife since we last got together and recently attended a Dodger game, so what’s one more grueling experience?

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We meet Guerrero in the dugout. Guerrero is swinging a bat. This time it’s not aimed just at me, because as everyone knows, this guy will swing at anything.

Lopez and Guerrero exchange pleasantries in Spanish, and Lopez finds it amusing that Guerrero doesn’t know me.

I find myself chuckling too, knowing Hayek will have the same reaction when I mention Lopez’s name.

“He just shot 81,” says Frank Pace, producer of “The George Lopez Show,” and I know he’s not talking about Lopez’s golf game because I’ve seen Lopez play.

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Guerrero shakes his head, somehow having missed the first 80 episodes, then mutters something to the comedian. Lopez’s translation: “He says after seeing you, he knows now why you write and why you don’t appear on camera.”

I look at Guerrero to see if that’s what he really said, and he offers no hint. I ask Guerrero if his favorite comedian is Paul Rodriguez, suddenly my favorite comedian. Guerrero says something in Spanish, and Lopez interprets: “He says I’m his favorite comedian.”

Guerrero is smiling and laughing, and I have a feeling Lopez is not relaying the questions as I have asked them. I have good reason to believe this, because players never smile or laugh when I ask them questions.

I bring up the Dodgers to put an end to the frivolity. Lopez grew up a die-hard Dodger fan, sitting in the left-field pavilion with his grandparents. His hero was Willie Davis. He has a picture of Davis and Sandy Koufax on his dressing room wall. He recently went to dinner with Koufax, and he has been searching for Davis with the goal to play catch with him.

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I mention that Guerrero could have been a Dodger, first as a teenager, and then two years ago, to wipe the smile off Lopez’s face.

As the reported story goes, the Dodgers scouted Guerrero’s older brother, didn’t like him, but signed another brother, Wilton. While Wilton worked with the Dodgers, Vladimir visited him regularly trying to get the Dodgers’ attention, but the Dodgers were not impressed. (What a surprise.)

“Unfortunately they didn’t see what everyone else saw,” Lopez says in translating Guerrero’s confirmation. Just one more Dodger loss.

“This guy is a living, breathing baseball player,” Lopez says, and he’s unable to finish the sentence, painfully aware the Dodgers don’t have many of these today.

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“He says it’s possible he could have played for the Dodgers last year,” Lopez continues, “but with the sale of the team at that time, he wanted more stability.” (Let’s see, do I play for the Boston Parking Lot Attendant or Arte Moreno, the guy who might end up owning the best baseball team in L.A.?)

Guerrero is still smiling, obviously thrilled not to be with the Dodgers, but I notice how serious the comedian has become. Obviously, it dawns on him who is playing right for the Dodgers.

The Angels are playoff bound, and Guerrero, one homer away from 300, could repeat as the American League most valuable player. One problem: He is the Angels’ offense. He has no power protection in the lineup behind him. Opponents have begun to walk him a la Barry Bonds. I wondered if the search for a good pitch to hit might make him more impatient and out of control than he already is.

He laughs. He not only understands the wisecrack from Page 2, but the ridiculous

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notion he will ever be patient swinging the

bat.

“It’s very simple,” the interpreter says. “He says, ‘From the time I started playing, I see the ball, I swing. I ain’t waiting around.’ ”

I had no idea there was a Spanish word for “ain’t,” but I’m getting that translation from Lopez. “It was same in Montreal; he is not trying harder,” says Lopez, his 10-word translation after a five-minute monologue from Guerrero.

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“I paid you $2 to give me the full translation.”

Lopez to me, after Guerrero has said nothing: “He says with the $2 you gave me you could buy a better shirt than the one you are wearing.”

I start talking directly to Guerrero. I wonder if he plays golf, noting his big swing and how wild off the tee he would probably be. Guerrero says no through Lopez, but then rolls over in laughter again.

“I told him to hit something white with a club is pure joy,” Lopez says. “He says he’ll take another look at it.”

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And so it goes. Guerrero is having a grand old time with the comedian, even though it’s not Rodriguez, and rolling with every smart-aleck comment from Page 2.

“Why not learn to speak English?” I ask.

“He says it’s a nice barrier between people like you; the last place to go to get away,” Lopez says, while adding on his own, “Why not learn to speak Spanish?”

Guerrero adds something, taking me off the hook, and Lopez translates: “He says the bat speaks enough.”

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I suggest to Guerrero he might know more English than he is letting on, and without waiting for Lopez, he says, “No.”

I mention that to Manager Mike Scioscia later, and he laughs. “Vlad knows more English than Mickey Hatcher,” he says, “which still might not be saying a lot.”

It’s enough for me, though. I intend to have Salma Hayek get my $2 back from Lopez. I don’t anticipate a problem.

*

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T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.


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