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Genoa City native overcomes father's death, drafted by Houston Astros


Rodriguez won gold medal, played in College World Series



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Jake Rodriguez uses full extension for a diving catch during the College World Series.

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Rodriguez, right, celebrates a victory. (click for larger version)
July 01, 2013 | 03:37 PM
GENOA CITY — This past year has been a bittersweet one for Jake Rodriguez.

The former Brookwood Middle School student, who spent much of his childhood in Genoa City, dealt with a tragedy on June 10, 2012.

That was the day Rodriguez's father Tony, just 43, died from a blood clot, according to the Oregonian. A couple days earlier, Jake visited his father in a hospital in Elk Grove, Calif.

Jake thought his dad was recovering and would be coming home the next day. Jake and Tony went over Jake's goals for school and baseball as Jake entered his final season with the Oregon State University baseball team.

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Exactly one year later, Rodriguez helped clinch a trip to the college World Series for the Beavers. Rodriguez, a senior catcher, had recently been selected in the 19th round of the Major League Baseball Draft by the Houston Astros.

More than a year after the passing of his dad, Jake was on top of the baseball world.

Rodriguez, who was drafted to the major leagues in 2010 but decided to go to Oregon State, continues to honor the memory of his best friend.

"My father passing away was extremely difficult for me and still is," Rodriguez said. "He was my best friend and was my guy. I talked to him twice a day about everything."

The Regional News recently caught up with Rodriguez to discuss his baseball journey and his special relationship with his father.

Regional News: First off, what is your connection to the Lake Geneva area?

Jake Rodriguez: I lived in Genoa City and attended Brookwood from second grade until eighth grade.

Other than that, my sisters attended Badger and I played for the youth football lightweights, middleweights and heavyweights.

RN: Where are you from? Where do you live now, and do you plan on coming back to the area?

JR: Originally, my family is from Chicago. We moved to Wisconsin when I was 7 and then when I was 14 we moved to Elk Grove, Calif. I plan on living in Sacramento in the offseason to do my training and baseball workouts.

RN: Were you surprised to be drafted in 2010? Why didn't you sign?

JR: In 2010 I knew there might be an opportunity but I was extremely happy for the (Los Angeles) Angels and the opportunity they gave me.

Oregon State allowed me to grow and become a well-rounded person and baseball player.

RN: When did the recruiting process start with Oregon State? Who else recruited you?

JR: I committed to OSU after my sophomore season at Elk Grove High School. I talked to a few other PAC-12 schools but, being only a sophomore, it was early to have made the decision.

I am no doubt pleased with my decision.

RN: Where were you selected in this year's MLB Draft? Were you excited to be picked again?

JR: This season, I was selected in the 19th round by the Houston Astros.

I was very excited that they have allowed me to live my dream and continue my baseball career.

RN: What is the next step in your baseball journey? Will you report to Houston soon?

JR: I have arrived in the New York-Penn league (a minor league affiliate of the Astros). This is where my road has begun with the Astros organization.

RN: When did you start playing baseball? Why do you love it?

JR: I started to play baseball the moment I could hold a ball and swing a bat. I learned to love the game from my father.

He stuck the fire within me and it has continued ever since.

RN: How exciting was it to play in the World Series?

JR: The College World Series was a dream come true. Our team was well-deserving and had played exceptionally well all season. Unfortunately, we didn't win it all but it was a experience I will never forget.

RN: Why do you think your team made it that far?

JR: Our team clicked from day one of practice in September. We never stopped working and we loved to play together and for one another. It was a great team and one I will never forget. The whole town of Corvallis, Ore. really stood behind us and helped us surge to Omaha.

RN: What did you do to improve your game since 2010?

JR: I think just learning how to play the game mentally is where I grew as a player. I think physically I have grew stronger and more flexible but have a lot to work on.

RN: What are your goals for the next level?

JR: My goals are to become a better player, learn how the Houston Astros run their system and try and become the best catcher and hitter I can.

RN: I'm sorry to hear of your father's passing. Take me through that experience. What did you learn from it?

JR: Baseball and my dad are a huge part of my life and although I still play, I still feel as if that part of me is missing and it will always feel that way. After he passed away I had to become the man of the house. As I was away at school or playing ball it's tough, but I just try and be the best son I can for my mom and put a smile on her face and be the best brother I can to my sisters and my brother. I have lived through something I had hoped I would never have to and as difficult as it has been for me and my family, I think we are doing a good job of finding happiness again within each other. Really, family is all you have and I just want to be there for my family.

RN: What kind of relationship did you have with your father? How is he still with you today?

JR: Every day I go to the field and think about my father, wishing he was there watching me. Unfortunately, he will not be there but I know he is watching from up above. I can see him up in heaven smiling down when good things happen and getting frustrated when I struggle. I wouldn't want it any other way. My father will always be a huge part of my life.

RN: What are you majoring in? Are you graduating soon?

JR: I majored in sociology with a minor in ethnic studies. I have one year left.

RN: When did you win a gold medal? How amazing was that experience?

JR: The U.S. National team was an experience I'll never forget. I was 16 and played with some of the best players in the game today. I loved getting the opportunity. Winning the gold medal was really the cherry on top. Can't say enough about USA baseball and the way they took care of me and the team.

RN: What do you hope to be doing in 5 years? 10 years?

JR: In the next five or 10 years I hope to be playing baseball for the Astros. By then I hope to improve all my skills and give myself a great chance to be up in the big leagues. It is a long road ahead, but it is something I am committed to. I am looking forward to the journey.

RN: What advice would you give young baseball players who want to make the big leagues someday?

JR: I think the best advice is to work as hard as your body allows. Your work ethic determines how far you get. Enjoy playing baseball. Enjoy your family and thank your mom and dad for everything they do for you. And just be the best person you can to the people around you and success will come to you.

Meet Jake Rodriguez

Jake Rodriguez's college baseball team, Oregon State, was eliminated from the College World Series June 21 with a 4-1 loss to Mississippi State, who lost in the finals to UCLA. Oregon State went 2-2 in its first CWS appearance since winning back-to-back national titles in 2006-07. The Beavers finished 52-13 overall.

For the season, Rodriguez hit .266 with 36 RBIs and a .379 on-base percentage. But Rodriguez earns his keep behind the plate. The 5-foot-8 powerhouse threw out 60 percent of would-be base stealers. He is quick and athletic, and can track down just about any ball in his vicinity.

Here's more about Rodriguez:

Baseball is: more fun to play than to watch.

I was drafted by the Astros because: I hope to help them to a World Series in the future.

Favorite movie: "A River Runs Through It"

Song: "Fast Car," by Tracy Chapman

Food ritual: I enjoy steak before my games.

If you could have dinner with one person dead or alive, who would it be and why? Derek Jeter, because he inspires me to become a professional player. And I enjoy what he does on and off the field.
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