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Vikings speaking the right language

Christian Cano can play a lot of positions for the Northeast baseball team. Photo: JACK E. KAPP

Tom Juhas came up with the perfect nickname.

After a few practices with Christian Cano when he was a freshman, Juhas, the baseball coach at Northeast High School, watched his rookie and he immediately started calling his guy Bugs Bunny. It wasn’t because of his hopping ability.

“You remember Bugs Bunny baseball?” Juhas said of Cano, a junior. “First base? Bugs Bunny. Second base? Bugs Bunny. Outfield? Bugs Bunny. Pitcher? Bugs Bunny.

“It really didn’t matter where I put him. I would put him anywhere and he could do it. He might need a little work, but he wanted to play and the lights are never too bright for him.

“He can do it all. And when we really need to get bailed out of an inning, we throw him in there. He just goes out and does his job. Especially at pitcher. I’m so proud of him.”

He doesn’t care where he plays, he just wants to play.

Cano knew that if he were going to get on the field, he’d have to be able to play a lot of different positions.

“I just like playing,” Cano said. “I will play anywhere. I don’t (mind) playing any position. I will play anywhere (the team needs him). I just like getting (on the field). As long as I can play, I’m happy.”

Cano has come a long way.

And not just on the field.

When Cano, who lives by Philadelphia Mills, arrived here by way of Puerto Rico just before his freshman year, he knew very little English.

He got a lot of help at the school, and he got a lot of help from his new teammates, including senior infielder Luis Javier.

“I had help,” Cano said. “I didn’t (speak any English) before I came here. We didn’t speak it. I listened. I tried to learn.”

“He doesn’t even need help that much anymore,” said Javier, who came to America from the Dominican Republic. “He understands everything and he is able to (communicate) with everyone.”

Javier is always there to help his teammates.

On top of being a translator of sorts for teammates who don’t speak English, the honor student is always there when his teammates need help with anything, academically.

“Luis Javier is one of the smartest kids in the school, and he’s always ready to help other guys,” Juhas said. “We had a guy who needed some help. A good kid, real nice kid who was working a lot and wasn’t doing everything he should in school. He wasn’t doing well with the (remote learning) and Luis got involved.

“This kid wouldn’t have graduated if Luis didn’t help him. He was a big help, made sure he was able to get to everything. He made sure that guy did what he had to do to graduate. He’s a really special kid.”

Cano and Javier are just happy to be back doing what they love most.

Last year, due to the pandemic, baseball was canceled for the year. It was tough on everyone, but especially for Javier because baseball was a great way for him to be around his friends and perfect his English.

He couldn’t play for Northeast, but he certainly played with his teammates.

“Whenever we could, we’d go somewhere and play,” said Javier, who lives about a mile from the school. “We couldn’t play and that’s what we love to do. We were careful, we knew we had to be careful, but we wanted to play. It’s what we love to do.”

Another thing Cano and Javier love to do is return to their native home.

Cano plans on going back this summer for vacation, and he hopes to play softball when he’s there.

Javier is going home after graduation and he plans to stay there for college.

“I want to study engineering, and I’m going to go to school (in the Dominican Republic),” he said. “I don’t think I’ll play baseball in college. I’ve always been a good student and that has always been a big interest to me.”

“I miss home a lot, I have family there and I really want to go back,” said Cano, who couldn’t go back last year due to the pandemic. “I miss everything about being there. I love it here, but I miss a lot of things about home.

“Playing softball is a lot different. Baseball is a lot different there, too. It’s a different way of playing. I like both ways, but I want to play softball with my friends.”

It would be great to tell their friends at home about winning a Public League championship.

That’s their goal. The team is 2-0 in Public League play, and is hoping business picks up with more games before the playoff run.

“I think we have a good team,” Javier said. “We have fun. We have good coaches, we have good players. I think we can do pretty well.”

“We are doing good,” Cano said. “I’m having fun. I’m getting better. I like playing everywhere. I think we are a really good team.”

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