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Today in European Spotlight, Stripes talks with 12-year-old Danny Del Pino Jr., who’s mastering his third language while playing shortstop for youth team in Germany:

You are the son of a Cuban immigrant, who’s a career Army NCO, and your mother is Panamanian. With that background, why does a shortstop of your talent play the North and Latin American game of baseball in a German league instead of youth services?

My mother wanted me to learn German. I already speak Spanish and English, and she said playing in the German league would help me learn that language, too. The German teams also play more games, too. They play until October.

How has the experience worked out?

It's been great. When I got here four years ago, I thought the Germans only played soccer. I play shortstop, second base and centerfield. This year, I hit .600 and played on the Baden-Württemberg all-star team that went to the national tournament for my age group. We beat Mannheim 9-3. It was the first time we have ever beaten Mannheim. I was the stolen-base leader for my team. I stole 20 bases. Next season I can play in the “jugend” league. They’re 13-15 years old. Some of those pitchers throw a lot faster, but I’m used to it. If I stay here five years, I can play on the German national team for my age group.

Do you play any other international sports?

I play rugby for the Heidelberg Hedgehogs. I play “zweite end,” second end. We play games in this area.

How’s the German coming?

You know, you learn basically the sports words for the game you’re playing. The Germans call runs “punkte,” points. You really need a teacher to learn German, because most of the kids learn English in school and don’t speak to you in German.

Are there pressures on you because you’re not German?

Well, if you say you’re an American, they automatically think you’re good. But it’s good for relations for both countries.

Have you experienced much travel through your sports?

Yeah. We went to a baseball tournament in Parma, Italy. They play with a Japanese ball. The Japanese have a lot of influence with baseball in Italy. Our players didn’t like the ball. They were all in shock because it bounces so high. Our pitcher looked at it and was like, “What’s this?”

Have you made any other trips?

Two years ago, I went with our church youth group to visit and help an orphanage in Poland. There were a lot of children living in what looked like a big mansion. The Catholic Church at PHV (Patrick Henry Village) was giving them PlayStation and GameBoy toys.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I want to be in sports — a baseball player.

Interview by Rusty Bryan.

Danilo (Danny) Del Pino Jr.

Age: 12

Title: Mastering languages and sports

(Seventh-grader at Heidelberg Middle School)

Europe readers: Know someone whose accomplishments, talents, job, hobby, volunteer work, awards or good deeds qualify them for 15 minutes of fame? How about someone whose claim to glory is a bit out of the ordinary — even, dare we say, oddball? Call Sharen Johnson at Stars and Stripes with the person’s name and contact information at DSN 229-3305 or e-mail her at johnsons@pstripes.osd.mil.

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