By Bob Wirz
It does not matter where Eddy Rodriguez’s baseball career takes him in the future, the one highlight from the Cuban native’s 12-year playing career that everyone will want to talk about is the home run he hit off of Johnny Cueto in Cincinnati August 2, 2012.
Rodriguez, the sturdy catcher already pretty well pegged as a career minor leaguer since his first six seasons, including two in the American Association, had only gotten him into half a dozen games as high at Triple-A.
San Diego had brought the 6-foot, 220-pound receiver up to the major leagues on that very day, and believe it or not he launched a home run in his very first time at bat in The Show.
Although he had been a non-roster invitee to the Padres’ major league spring training camp, Rodriguez was playing for Class A Lake Elsinore, CA when he got the surprise call. “He didn’t believe me (at first),” manager Shawn Wooten told The North County (CA) Times at the time of informing Rodriguez he was going to the majors. It was somewhat ironic Wooten would be in that spot, too, since he also was a catcher who worked his way to the majors through Independent leagues, including a brief stint with the St. Paul Saints in 2007.
Rodriguez got into one other game during his five-day stint with the Padres, but that was his only hit in five official plate appearances. He did draw two walks.
The playing career for the onetime University of Miami star ended in ’17 after 784 professional games spread over four major league organizations and a full season as a durable catcher with El Paso (2009) and another with Sioux Falls (2010). He hit 21 homers, drove in 97 runs and hit .262 in the American Association.
The New York Yankees may have been the first organization to fully recognize Rodiguez’s future was in the instructing/coaching ranks when they shuttled him between their top two minor league clubs the last three seasons he played, often splitting his time between being a backup catcher and a reliable guide for younger players. The Los Angeles Angels made him their minor league catching coordinator last season.
Now, while only turning 34 last month, Rodriguez will wear a major league uniform full time this season as catching coach under Don Mattingly with the Miami Marlins.
It is true once more, American Association players can work their way into career baseball opportunities even if their talent does not allow them to play for any stretch at the sport’s highest level.
“Dream come true to come back to my hometown and be the Marlins’ catching coach”, Rodriguez tweeted when the announcement was made. “Insane couple weeks for the Rodriguez family”.
Explorers’ Star Samson Moves On
Onetime American Association outfielder David Peralta will get $22 million plus possible incentives over the next three seasons from the Arizona Diamondbacks, and another league grad, right-hander Chaz Roe, has worked his way up to nearly $2.2 million for this year with Tampa Bay.
It will not be that type of payday although longtime Sioux City shortstop and 2016 league Most Valuable Player Nate Samson can earn an improved paycheck with his decision to leave the Explorers and play in Mexico.
With his 33rd birthday looming (August) and three brief stints in Triple-A (28 games total) to top his career with major league organizations in 14 previous seasons, no one can blame the Floridian for wanting to maximize his opportunities.
He leaves an indelible print on the American Association with part of a season in Winnipeg followed by five of the last six with Sioux City, including the league batting championship (.340) in ’18. Among his bevy of achievements including nearly 1,193 career hits so far, Samson never struck out more than 28 times in any American Association season and that count came in his 457 at-bat summer two years ago when he played every one of the Explorers’ 100 games.
Previously the chief spokesman for Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about Independent Baseball since 2003. He is a frequent contributor to this site, has a blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, and a book about his life, “The Passion of Baseball”, is available at Amazon.com or at www.WirzandAssociates.com.