Everyone has a story. Some are simple and predictable, and you know the ending before you finish the prologue. Others feel more like a Goosebumps book, with every chapter forcing seemingly life altering decisions.
One of my favorite aspects of working in Minor League Baseball is the opportunity to meet and talk to many different types of people and hear their stories. Fans, boosters, scouts, reporters, families, players and coaches from all over the county and the world come out to Eastwood Field over the summer, and they all have experiences to share.
Throughout the offseason I’m going to interview several former Scrappers in an attempt to give you an insight into their offseason life and tell a little of their story. This week I was lucky enough to speak with 2013 Scrappers first baseman, Nellie Rorriguez.
Nellie Rodriguez looks like a ballplayer. With his broad shoulders, wide stance and boyish grin when Rodriguez’s bulky 6’2 250 pound frame walks into a room, there is no mistaking that he was born to play baseball.
“I’ve been playing since I was three years old” said Rodriguez. “Even at that age I had quite a passion and love for the game.”
That passion has fired the New York City native through countless practices, conditioning sessions, workouts and of course, baseball games.
At nineteen, Rodriguez leads a far from typical life. February through August he wakes up, works out, goes to practice, and then plays baseball. There are no weekends, there are no vacations, and there are fewer off days then you have fingers.
His life fits in a suitcase because as a baseball player, he can relocate at anytime with only a few hours notice. Every three to five days he finds himself on a bus to a new town and new hotel. He travels the country the way many of us wish we could, one ballpark at a time.
Like many kids who go away to college at his age, Rodriguez spends months without seeing his friends and family. When asked one of the highlights of the summer Nellie didn’t hesitate to answer the Scrappers trip to New York.
“You don’t get to see your family everyday like you do in the offseason. Being able to see them for a week, seeing my friends and family just pumped me up to play at a higher level and have fun.”
On the above mentioned trip to New York the Scrappers faced McNamara Division rivals the Staten Island Yankees and Brooklyn Cyclones. The team was one game separated from a twelve game losing streak, but during the six days in New York they took two games a piece from both Staten Island and Brooklyn winning back-to-back series for the first time that season.
A little home cooking and family time did him well and in Rodriguez’s first game back in his home state he went 4 for 5 with a double, two homers and five RBI. He went on to have four more multi hit games, another homerun and two more doubles giving him a .464 batting average for the two series. Rodriguez’s performance was noticed by both the Indians and the league garnering him Indians Minor League Player of the Week and New-York Penn League Player of the week honors. To state it simply, he put on for his city.
When asked about the greatest moment in his career Rodriguez could have answered the series’ in New York, the 2013 New York-Penn League All-Star Game, getting drafted in the 15th Round of the 2012 MLB First Year Player Draft, or shattering Manny Ramirez’s high school home run record (both attended George Washington High School in New York City). Instead, he values his two walk-offs at Eastwood Field. Still a teenager, Rodriguez demonstrates something most adults struggle with, putting a team’s success over an individual’s stellar performance.
When asked how he plans on spending his down time over the next few months, Rodriguez responded like any average teenager, “hangout with my friends, go to the movies a lot, go bowling, and just talk about life”. For those, who are fortunate enough to listen, his story is far from average.
Listen to some of Nellies 2013 Hightlights: https://soundcloud.com/mvscrappers/nellie-rodriguez-highlights