Fondly misremembering Steve Rodriguez

Rodriguez with the 1990 Alaska Goldpanners. I would've put his baseball card here, but I don't have one.

Earlier this week, I watched Francisco Cervelli catch for the Yankees against the Red Sox in place of Jorge Posada, a long-time non-favorite of the author. Cervelli is a scrappy dude who seems more than happy to slap in a timely single, and he has a little flair behind the plate, going into a full windup in whipping the ball back to third base after a strikeout. And even if he’s not built for it, he certainly played like a starting major league catcher this past weekend. If he were on any other team, I’d probably be buying his t-shirt.

Anyway, watching Cervelli play reminded me of a Red Sox short-timer from 1995, Steve Rodriguez, the middle of the 1994 Pawtucket Red Sox’ fabled Rodriguez-to-Rodriguez-to-Rodriguez double play combo. Rodriguez didn’t play for very long with the Sox, but he burned himself into my baseball psyche upon arrival, and I have only fond memories of his time in Boston.

Here’s what I remember about Steve Rodriguez:

  • He was about 5’6″ tall.
  • He played for about two months with the Red Sox before being traded to Detroit.
  • He liked to slap the ball the other way.
  • He was a smooth fielder.
  • He once said that he liked Fenway Park because it was small, like him.
  • He was the last player to wear no. 7 before young Trot Nixon slipped into it the next season.

So, naturally, I got curious about the career of a middle infielder who only played part of one season with the big club. I started to poke around, and right away, his Baseball Reference page punched me right in the face with a fist-full of “You’re Wrong, Nick.”

For example:

  • He was 5’8″ tall.
  • He only played six games with the Sox, with one hit for a .125 average.
  • The Tigers grabbed him off of waivers.
  • He was not nearly as good as his Pawtucket shortstop, Carlos.
  • Kevin Mitchell also wore no. 7 for about 15 minutes the next season before he switched to 24.

What does all of this mean? Well, for starters, my memory is never as good as I think it is. But in this case, I’m perfectly fine with that.

Steve Rodriguez (who, Wikipedia tells me, is now the head coach at Pepperdine) played in 18 games in the major leagues, 18 more than anyone else I know personally. I watched him play in Pawtucket at least once, and it seems that he’s carved out a nice little life for himself, with a family in California and a job in baseball.

But what Rodriguez also became, whether he had any intent towards it or not, is yet another symbol of the little guy who’s able to scrap his way up to the show, carve out a place for himself, and provide a little bit of entertainment along the way for the fans who are only happy to watch.

Even if one of those fans may have built him up to be a little bit more than he really was.


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