Monday, September 12, 2011

Interview: Vic Rodriguez, Something Special

Red Sox roving minor league hitting coordinator Victor Rodriguez in the LaLacheur Park dugout Aug. 3, 2011 in Lowell, Mass.

LOWELL, MA - Victor Rodriguez made the major leagues for two all-too-brief stays - in a playing career that lasted nearly two decades.

Those stays, five years apart, resulted in Rodriguez getting 12 major-league hits in 28 big-league at bats. Those 12 major league hits stand next to more than 1,900 Rodriguez had in the minors over 19 seasons, more than 1,200 of those at AAA.

With that background, Rodriguez appreciated every moment he spent in the majors.

"It doesn't matter how short or how long you stay, you appreciate the the big leagues," Rodriguez told The Greatest 21 Days in an interview last month, "because it's something special. The travel, the stadiums that you play, the people that you meet, the fans. Everything is different.

"That's the reason this job is special," Rodriguez added, "because you get to help kids to get to the major leagues."
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The job Rodriguez was referring to was his job as a roving minor league hitting coordinator with the Boston Red Sox, a position he was named to in 2006.

The Greatest 21 Days caught up with Rodriguez Aug. 3 at LeLacheur Park in Lowell, Mass. Rodriguez was in town working with players on the Red Sox' short-season affiliate, the Lowell Spinners.

The interview itself was made possible by Lowell pitching coach Paul Abbott, a teammate of Rodriguez' in 1990 at AAA Portland, pointing that his old teammate - and member of the CMC set - was in the park. (The Greatest 21 Days interview with Paul Abbott)

Hitting coordinator Victor Rodriguez talks to Lowell Spinners players on the dugout rail Aug. 3, 2011.

Rodriguez works with those young players, from those fresh out of school to those on the edge of making the majors, using his own career experiences to help them along, Rodriguez said.

Those experiences began back in 1977, signed by the Orioles as a teenager out of Puerto Rico. He played that year at rookie Bluefield, adjusting to life as a professional and adjusting to the language.

Rodriguez knew little English when he signed. On the diamond, though, that mattered little, Rodriguez recalled.

"It was tough at the beginning," Rodriguez said. "I think the language was the more difficult thing. But then, you know, when you get in the game, it's about playing the game."

Rodriguez, though, worked on his game, and he worked on his language skills. "It's been a good thing a good experience," Rodriguez said. "Everything I've got is because of baseball."

Rodriguez worked his way through the minors, making AA Charlotte in 1980, then AAA Rochester in 1982. It was in September 1983 that Rodriguez got his first of what turned out to be two calls to the majors.

His first major league hit came in his second at bat. It also came at Yankee Stadium.

Lowell Sinners DH Moko Moanaroa at bat Aug. 3, 2011 at Lowell's LeLacheur Park. In town to help Lowell hitters that day was roving hitting coordinator Victor Rodriguez.

Rodriguez struck out in his first at bat. The second time up, though, the new Oriole made contact. And the ball found its way past a diving third basemen and diving shortstop, through the Yankee Stadium infield.

"The ball looked like zig zag and it went through the infield," Rodriguez recalled. "It was a good experience."

Rodriguez ended up getting into 11 games that September. He got seven hits, two of those doubles. He also knocked in two.

And he was in the major leagues.

"Everything you work for in the minor leagues," Rodriguez said, "is to get to the major leagues."

He got there just one more time, in July 1989, with the Twins. He got five more hits and two more doubles, ending his major league career. His career batting average sits at .429.

Rodriguez, though, played on at AAA. He didn't play his last professional game until 1995, playing at AAA with the Twins, Phillies, Marlins and Red Sox organizations.

"You know," Rodriguez said, "I didn't get a chance to play a lot. But I knew at the end I did everything I could to get there."

"After that," Rodriguez added a short time later, "it's up to other people. I control what I need to control. I just play the game."

Red Sox roving hitting coordinator Victor Rodriguez in the dugout at LeLacheur Park in Lowell, Mass. before a game Aug. 3, 2011.

Since retiring as a player, Rodriguez has held several positions with the Red Sox, including Latin American field coordinator and, for 2011, roving minor league hitting coordinator.

Rodriguez' son, Victor Rodriguez Jr., has even followed him into baseball, both as a minor league player and as a scout.

But it's precisely the father's many experiences as a player himself in the minor leagues that Rodriguez says helps him as a coordinator to connect with players.

It's especially helpful, Rodriguez said, when working with players having a tough time, thinking the worst has happened to them.

"Me being in the minor leagues for so long, going through all that, I got the opportunity to tell them that it is not that bad," Rodriguez said, "that if you allow things to work out and trust the process, things are going to work out."

"At the end, it's all about the game," Rodriguez said a short time later, "and trying to get them to have fun."

1 comment:

  1. Vic was nice enough to sign a card TTM for me last year. Very cool interview with him!

    ReplyDelete

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