Rodon: Growing with ChiSox, Proud of Pack

After a stellar three seasons at NC State, Carlos Rodon was selected third overall by the Chicago White Sox in 2014. The left-hander quickly progressed through the system and made his MLB debut on April 21st. While he progresses as a Major Leaguer, he will never forget his NC State roots.

Rodon vividly remembers his first experience with NC State. It did not take him long to see it was where he would like to spend his college career.

“It was my sophomore year in high school,” Rodon recalled. “I was at some showcase and I think just Coach {Chris] Hart was there. I threw well and came in for a visit then committed. The coaching staff felt like family. It was just down the road. I felt at home and I just felt comfortable with them.”

Signed by Chicago on July 11th of last year after being selected No. 3 overall in the 2014 MLB Draft, Rodon sprinted through the White Sox Minor League system. The power left-hander only appeared in 11 games (34.2 innings) before being promoted to the Majors on April 20th.

While Rodon’s time at NC State undoubtedly gave the ChiSox enough faith to make a major investment in the school’s all-time strikeout leader, the speed with which he made his MLB debut is what stunned the coaching staff the most.

“Three years of college is one thing but basically jumping through the Minor League system really quick is more of the rarity,” Chicago pitching coach Don Cooper said. “When I think of Carlos, he is certainly a talented guy. He would not have been chosen third [overall] if he wasn’t. Every stadium, every city is new to him. We want him here because he is talented and we want here to get the experience.”

Fortuitously for Rodon, Chicago was in Arlington to beginning a three-game set against the Texas Rangers with his scheduled start not until Thursday. The travel schedule meant he was able to visit his former college teammates in Ft. Worth ahead of NC State’s showdown with No. 4 TCU.

“I just told them I wish I was in their position my final season,” Rodon said. “The year before we didn’t make a regional. One thing I said to them is you are lucky to be in this position. I wish it would have been my last year.”

The Pack suffered a heartbreaking defeat on Monday after holding a huge lead late. Rodon feels that NC State has much to be proud of--particularly from the senior class which he was a part of--and thinks bright days are ahead.

“Those guys, they played well,” Rodon said. “Ratledge had a big year from the numbers I have seen of him. They put some stuff together. They played well through to that game. It is just baseball. That’s tough.”

“It is a big thing when you make it--it is not easy--especially in games like that when you are playing in front of a tough crowd,” Rodon added “It is always going to get to you. You have got to turn the page and get better. Those guys are fairly young. We had some seniors too that had been through it before but there is still a lot of young guys who had never been to a regional. Hopefully, they’ll learn from it and understand that it is not an easy game. You take it pitch-by-pitch and you have just got to clear those things.”

“We have been the years before. They had a good team this year. They can be an elite team again--an elite program. Elliott [Avent] does a great job especially with [NC State pitching coach Scott] Foxhall, who is a great addition. Hart has always been great. They can really be a force.”

While still getting acclimated to the rigors of the Major Leagues, Rodon was thrilled to get to spend a day seeing his former classmates and coaches from NC State on Monday. The memories of his time with the Wolfpack are still fresh. He also feels his college career set him on the proper course to achieve his dream of pitching in the Majors.

“My freshman year when we played Vanderbilt in the regional, it was similar to what TCU did, we had to come through the loser’s bracket and we ended up winning two in a row,” Rodon said. “That was pretty special. Of course, going to Omaha was big. Omaha was unbelievable.

“[Former NC State pitching coach Tom] Holiday was a big part of it. He mentored me and really taught me how to throw strikes--throw the slider to get guys out--and I just developed myself a little better with those three years in college.”

Rodon reserved special praise for NC State head coach Elliott Avent.

“He is big time, Rodon said. “He is better as a person than a coach. He is a great coach, don’t get me wrong, and I learned a lot from him but he is an even better person.”

After three seasons with NC State there was much conjecture as to where Rodon would land as a professional player. It was speculated that he may be the top-pick overall but ultimately he landed third with Chicago. For the native of Holly Springs, the White Sox are the best thing that could have happened.

“This is a great organization,” Rodon said. “It is similar to NC State in that I feel at home. It has been really fun the couple of months I have been here. Luckily, I moved fast. I am here with the team now and it is real exciting.”

The dream finally came true on April 21st, one day after his promotion. Rodon made his debut against the Cleveland Indians in a relief appearance at U.S. Cellular Field.

“It is different, “ Rodon said of his first Major League appearance. “A lot of jitters, that’s for sure. It is different because you watch those guys on TV and then you are finally facing them. That first time goes really quick.”

With his fifth Major League start scheduled for Thursday against Texas, Rodon is thrilled to be at a place he has always dreamed of, but he also knows the real work is just beginning. Like at NC State, he feels the staff in Chicago also has his best interests at heart.

“Don Cooper is a big part of my success here, Rodon said. “He has really helped me. It is just different up here, learning to pitch to guys and just refining things. Pro ball is a little different animal. It is totally different. Granted, I am still just in my first full year so I am still learning the ropes here. You just take it as you come, day-by-day, and try to get better. I am just trying to get better every start. I want to improve and help this team win.”

“We are absolutely thrilled to have him here,” Cooper said. “He is very coachable. There is lots of work to be done...but you see a guy with a good makeup and with a bright future.” As Rodon’s journey in the Major Leagues progresses, he knows Wolfpack Nation still has his back. The love he receives and pride that NC State fans still have for him is something he does not take lightly and hopes it will extend to his White Sox family.

“I appreciate the support. It is big. I am glad they just keep on following me throughout my career whatever team I am on. Hopefully I stay here my whole career because I love this organization. It is nice to have a following from the Wolfpack fans and hopefully some of them are Sox fans now. Not just pulling for me but pulling for this team.”


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