From the moment Miami sophomore catcher Eddy Rodriguez attended his first Hurricanes baseball game when he was eight years old, he knew he wanted to play for the green and orange. After moving from Cuba when he was young, Rodriguez grew up in Coral Gables and is living a dream playing behind the plate as a Miami Hurricane.
A year ago as a freshman, Rodriguez was the understudy to one of the best catchers in the country, Erick San Pedro. San Pedro opted to leave after last season and was selected in the second round by the Washington Nationals. That meant it was Rodriguez’s turn to step up and move behind the plate.
San Pedro has let Rodriguez know what to expect.
“He taught me a lot about the mental aspects of the game,” Rodriguez said. “He told me to be ready for the next level because the mental part of the game gets a lot tougher.”
After appearing in 23 games last season and hitting .241, Rodriguez began this season with a bit of competition for that starting job. Freshman Alex Garabedian came to Coral Gables after being drafted in the seventh round by the New York Yankees. With both catchers struggling at the plate through the first 20 games, Rodriguez snapped out of it.
“I was doing horrible the first couple weeks or so,” Rodriguez said. “I just kept working at it in the cages and going crazy wondering why I wasn’t hitting the ball, but I got a new mental approach and it’s worked out.”
Through the first 30 games, Rodriguez is hitting .302 with four homeruns and 18 RBI. Those numbers do not include the stellar defense he supplies while behind the plate, which is one of the main reasons why he’s in a Miami uniform today. Rodriguez has been a catcher now for the last 11 years and it’s been his defense that has caught the attention of a lot of people. At Coral Gables Senior High School, Rodriguez hit .250 his senior season yet still made second team All-Dade County. He loves being behind the plate.
“I always like to be in the action of the game,” Rodriguez said. “I can’t see myself playing any other position because I wouldn’t be in every play. Behind the plate I get to do that, and that’s what I like to do.”
With two pivotal ACC series coming up for the Hurricanes, it is going to be guys like Rodriguez who will need to step up and continue to swing a hot bat. Rodriguez knows the road to winning the conference title in their first season is a tough one.
“Virginia Tech and North Carolina are two good teams and will be tough to beat on the road,” Rodriguez said. “But our goal is to win the ACC and to guarantee us a national seed.”
After sweeping Virginia Tech on the road last weekend, Miami travels to North Carolina this week and then will play host to rival Florida State the weekend after.
Douglas C. Kroll can be contacted at email@example.com.