Rays' Rodriguez owes love for game to dad

Rays' Rodriguez owes love for game to dad

Rays' Rodriguez owes love for game to dad
ST. PETERSBURG -- As Rays infielder Sean Rodriguez prepares for a game, sitting in his chair in the clubhouse, he can't stop staring at the TVs showing highlights from the previous night.

At 27 years old, he's still deeply in love with the game, thanks in large part to his father, John, who showed him its beauty. It's a feeling they each share, and it helps them connect each day.

It began when Sean was about 4 years old. From the beginning, the game was a perfect fit for him. He always seemed to want to play with the baseball above all else, and when he would throw it or swing a bat, John, who is a manager in the Cardinals' farm system, took notice.

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"He seemed to have a knack," John said. "He seemed to throw harder than all the other kids, and I felt there was some kind of a talent when he was 4 or 5 years old. I said, 'You know what, he might have what it takes.'"

There's no doubt that John pushed his son hard, which may be an understatement. He believed immensely in preparation and putting in the work needed to succeed. The late-night batting-practice sessions and throwing to the plate from the edge of the outfield as a young child are evidence.

But from the very start, he laid out a blueprint to help Sean achieve his dreams. Rising up through the baseball ranks from high school to the Minors all the way up to the Majors would take time and -- more importantly -- effort, and Sean was expected to give 100 percent each and every day.

"I explained to him that if you're gonna make this your thing, you need to go all out with it," John said. "I told him, 'You're gonna have to earn everything there is, even as talented as you are.' I instructed that in him to make sure that he earns everything. Nothing would be given."

But Sean didn't get burned out or have any doubts about what he was doing. In fact, learning from his dad only intensified his passion.

"He instilled in me and helped me grow that love for the game," Sean said. "It wasn't something that he tried to throw on me. Just being around it, you just love it more and more."

A third-round Draft pick in 2003, Rodriguez spent five years in the Minor Leagues before getting his first taste in the Majors. As he worked his way up, his father would often tell him what he tells all the players he coaches: The only thing that can be controlled is effort, don't worry about stats.

It paid off, and Rodriguez, who talks to John every day, continues to give it his all.

That's what makes John so proud of him.

"The way he plays the game is what I'm most proud of," John said. "I know every day he goes on that field and goes all out."

All the hard work and years of dedication is displayed each night, and it gives John a sense of euphoria to see Sean achieving his dreams as a member of the Rays.

"It's a heavenly feeling like, 'Is this real?'" John said. "Watching him in a big league uniform, seeing him out there remembering how little he was when he started... It's an unbelievable feeling."

John doesn't get the luxury to see Sean play too often, due to both of them having the day-to-day grinds of their respective schedules, though they still are able to text every day. He doesn't give advice on his swing or batting stance anymore, but is still eager to give Sean important advice.

"You have to enjoy the moment, enjoy the moment," John said. "Like when he was picked to the Olympics, like when he was picked to All-Star games like he did in the Minors, enjoy the moment. I was fortunate to see a lot of them."

Greg Zeck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.