ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Rusney Castillo might have been welcomed to the United States by celebrity rapper Jay Z, but leave it to El Ganso to help make the Cuban outfielder feel at home.
"El Ganso" is Spanish for Goose, the nickname going on 40 years now for 64-year-old Glenn Gregson, who is listed as Boston's Latin American pitching coordinator but is so much more, a bilingual port of first call for many of the youngest players to pass through the Sox system.
With Castillo spending his first days in the Sox system with the team's rookie-level entry in the Gulf Coast League -- he is scheduled to play three innings Sunday in Fort Myers -- he is certain to have crossed paths with Gregson, who made it a mission while playing winter ball to add Spanish to his repertoire.
Gregson taught himself by watching Spanish-language TV when he played in the Dominican Republic and by reading the local sports pages.
"Trial and error," said the native of Hamlet, N.C., which is about as big as it sounds. "I used to tell the Latin players: I don't mind if you laugh if I make a mistake. They tend to withdraw if they say something in English and people laugh.
"I try to convince them it's OK if they laugh, but just correct me. The give and take really helps. When kids from the Dominican or Venezuela come to spring training the first time and see a friendly face that tries to communicate with them, they appreciate that."
Gregson, of course, is not the only bilingual member of the Sox staff in Fort Myers. Castillo has been working out with Laz Gutierrez, the former University of Miami pitcher who is in his second season as the Sox player development programs coordinator. But it is rare for a person of Gregson's experience to be planted at an organization's entry level.
Gregson has been a big league pitching coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers (1988) and again with the Red Sox for six weeks in 2003 when Tony Cloninger was recovering from bladder cancer. He also served as the Sox pitching coordinator for three years.
But approaching the tail end of a career in baseball that has spanned more than four decades, Gregson says he is content to spend his summer days in Fort Myers, with the teenagers who populate the team's rookie league roster, and in the Dominican Republic, which is where he first encountered a 16-year-old Pedro Martinez.
"Pedro was like a son to me," said Gregson, who was with the Dodgers at the time and also coached Pedro's older brother, Ramon.
"I still, to this day, use Pedro when I'm talking to the Latin players," he said. "Pedro, when he was 16, outworked every pitcher I ever worked with. Even to this day, he's the best worker I ever had.
"I used to ask him what drove him. Pedro was a cocky guy. He looked me in the eye and said, 'I am better than every pitcher you see out there on that field, and because I believe that I will outwork every pitcher.'"
Gregson, who got his nickname because Cal Emery, his manager in Rocky Mount, N.C., said he had an arm that was loose as a goose and would flap his arms from the dugout when he wanted him to warm up in the bullpen, travels frequently to the Dominican Republic to track the pitchers in the Red Sox academy. But when mid-June rolls around, he joins the GCL Red Sox as pitching coach and will grab a fungo bat for manager Tom Kotchman, another old pro, when the need arises.
He has never limited his interactions with just the pitchers, which is why he counts Adrian Beltre, who came up with the Dodgers and later played a season with the Red Sox, as an all-time favorite.
"When Adrian came here, he couldn't speak two words of English," he said. "Now look at him."
Having traveled so frequently to the Dominican Republic and Venezuela and seen first-hand the impoverished backgrounds from which many players come, Gregson appreciates the special challenges facing these young men. One, he said, is a common fear of failure, which means every outing becomes a referendum on whether they are returned to the island.
"We have to make them understand," he said, "that we will be patient with them."
In other cases, he says, sometimes a sense of complacency sets in, with players believing because they have made it to the United States they are automatically on their way to greater riches.
"We have to reverse that," he said.
But what he finds most often, he said, is players looking for someone they can trust.
"That's understandable, especially when they come to a country where so many don't speak their language," he said. "When they find someone who tries, even if it's in broken Spanish, they feel like they have an ally."
Castillo will soon be gone from Fort Myers, a course laid out before him that is expected to take him to the big leagues sometime in September. Gregson will remain behind -- instructional league begins in mid-September.
Castillo, signed to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract by the Sox, already has a support system in place that far transcends that of the typical Latin player who comes to the Sox: The agency that represents him, Roc Nation Sports, has assigned him a full-time assistant that he or his wife can call at any time.
But like so many other players who have passed through here, he knows he can count on at least one friendly face. Every team should have an El Ganso.
"My opportunities to be at the major league level have come and gone," Gregson says. "I'm perfectly content to be here. I derive great pleasure from helping kids."