Family drives Rodriguez to succeed

Eugene, OR: Every boy who grew up playing baseball had a dream of one day being able to play professional baseball. Catcher Jeremy Rodriguez almost didn't get a chance to have that dream. When his mother was giving birth to him, Rodriguez almost died in the womb.

Doctors quickly got Rodriguez of out of his mother safely and the rest was history. Jeremy Rodriguez fulfilled his dream when the San Diego Padres drafted him in the 16th round.

"My dad has taught me since I was little I am never going to have anything given to me. Ever since I was a baby I have had to fight for my life, " Rodriguez said. " Every time I get on the field, I need to prove something."

The opportunity to play baseball for a living is something Rodriguez wouldn't trade anything for in the world. He said when times get tough he just remembers that he could be picking corn or working at McDonald's. He reiterated the fact that this is a blessing and it is something to never to complain about.

Rodriguez grew up in Southern California and starred at Crespi Caramelite High School. He later took his talents to California State University of Bakersfield, where he hit .400 as a sophomore and .328 as a junior.

Family is a huge part of Rodriguez's life and remembers back when his father taught him how to switch-hit.

"My dad was a switch-hitter when he played in Cuba, and he knew I wasn't going to be very tall so he tried to figure out a way to boost my stock up as much as possible. I started when I was eight years old and just stuck with it," Rodriguez said.

He should be thankful to his father because Rodriguez is listed at only 5-foot-8. The closeness of Rodriguez's family is something to be noted. His family took the drive from Southern California up to Eugene for opening weekend. In fact, they have never missed an opening day no matter where Jeremy was.

"They really cared about seeing me play at a certain level because it can be gone just like that. They are big with memories. They love taking pictures and keeping newspaper articles," Rodriguez said. "They have definitely been a big part of my life and with baseball."

Opening weekend for the Emeralds was something emotional and special for all the players as they saw the reality of their dreams coming true. It is something special to be out on that field when the national anthem is played and there are 3,000 fans there to watch you play. This was no different for Rodriguez.

"To be honest with you I was so excited. Now it is starting to sit in a little bit. I am professional baseball player," Rodriguez said. "I have been thinking about this day since I was 12 years old. I seriously started getting teary eyed because I was just like, this isn't happening".

Rodriguez later joked about his first at-bat and how glad he was that he walked because his legs were shaking so bad from the nerves. After some time on the field, he said the nerves went away and his first hit is something he will never forget.

A lot of players much like Rodriguez reflect on the time and hard work it took to get where they are today. They won't forget the five A.M weights, the six-hour practices, the long road trips, the successes and the failures. All of the memories and past events that lead up to this point are what made Rodriguez who he is today.

The brush of death at an early age and will that was instilled in him from his parents made him to never take anything for granted.

A perfect example to showcase what kind of person Rodriguez is took place after an Emerald's game this season. After a long game, he was still signing autographs for kids 40 minutes after the game. He made sure he got every single kid something signed. When asked why, he simply said, "I used to be one of those kids. I know what it is like."

Everyone drafted in June's Major League draft was the guy on his team. Now in professional baseball, there will be spilt playing time.

The biggest challenge for Rodriguez making the transition from college to professional baseball he said has been the change from playing everyday to playing every couple games. The adjustment and focus mentally has been something to get used to for Rodriguez.

"It is actually good for me because it is making me smarter player. I am learning the game a lot more and being a catcher it is good to get rest," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez feels he has gotten where he is today through hard work and his catching abilities. Teammate and roommate, Zach Kometani, echoed Rodriguez's feelings.

"I would say that he is a very intelligent player. He understands the game and how to handle a pitching staff as a catcher. Physically, as a player, he may not have size but he is extremely tough and works hard to make himself a great player," Kometani said.

The summer of 2011 will be a summer that none of these players will forget for the rest of their lives. Rodriguez is certainly one who will not take this opportunity for granted.

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