If you’re trying to spot first baseman Sal Rodriguez at the ballpark, just look for the guy signing autographs, playing catch with children or chatting with the fans.
The Crystal Lake, Illinois native has quickly become a fan favourite in Medicine Hat and for the 6-foot-2 right-handed batter, the feeling is mutual. Rodriguez loves being at the diamond and he also enjoys engaging with the fans.
But the Minot State University student, who is entering his senior year, can play too.
In 49 games with the Beavers, Rodriguez posted a .313 batting average, blasted nine home runs, contributed 47 RBI and scored 27 runs.
The move to Medicine Hat didn’t slow him down either. During his 38 games with the Mavericks this season, Rodriguez batted .321, with four home runs, 27 RBI and 30 runs.
Rodriguez recently made some time for us and our “1 Thru 9” feature series. Here’s what he had to say:
1. What is your walk-up/warm-up tune?
“Mi Gente” by J Balvin. The beat just makes everyone move and bob their head. As a player, there is just a great energy I get from the song and the vibes the fans give off when they hear it start playing.
2. What is the best pre-game meal?
The best pre-game for me is something protein based. Like chicken or steak with some fruits and veggies.
3. Your family sends you a care package. What’s in it?
Most likely some kind of baseball-related item, like a hat, shirt or batting gloves. I’m not a big candy fan, so I wouldn’t get a traditional looking care package with food and candy.
4. What is your favourite stadium to watch or play baseball in?
When it comes to watching a game, I would have to say Wrigley Field. It’s not the most modern or flashy park, but the history and charm make it a special place to go watch a game. But my favourite stadium to play in is Athletic Park in Medicine Hat. Our fans are the best, the history of the park is rich, and the atmosphere is great.
5. Who has had the biggest influence on you as a baseball player and why?
My family has been my biggest baseball influence. My Mom and Dad worked so hard to make sure my brother and I had the best opportunities when it came to this game. They motivated me and poured so much into spending time practising with us, taking us to tournaments, practices, lessons, and college visits. My family has been my biggest support system – not just my parents but my brother, all my aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents, as well. I would never be at this stage in my career without my family. I love them.
6. Who was the best teammate you’ve ever had and why?
I don’t think I can pinpoint just one teammate as the best. I have been blessed enough to have great teammates throughout my career. My time at Minot State University has given me many teammates that taught me from my first day on campus how to be a leader, how to play hard and they supported me from day one. So, although it’s not one particular teammate, I am grateful for all my teammates.
7. What is the best thing about playing baseball in the WMBL?
Outside of the great competition, the people are what make the WMBL the league it is. The front office staff, coaches, teammates, stadium staff, community and the fans all make the experience as a player so great. The opportunity to come to the ballpark every day and knowing and speaking with the people that help make a game day possible adds to the level of gratitude you feel towards them. The fans also make the league so exciting, they are passionate and as a player you get to know them and engage with them often, especially the younger fans.
@mhmavericks are summer time heroes to young fans. It means so much to them. Here is @SalRodriguez21 signing autographs after the last home game. Good job guys. You never know what lives we touch. What a great bunch of guys and a great organization. pic.twitter.com/WuZ3m9eXDB
— Jay Diemert (@JayTigersfan) July 26, 2018
8. What is your favourite baseball memory?
Spending time growing up at the baseball field with my family. We spent countless hours traveling and practising but it was a family effort. But winning the 2018 NSIC (Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference) regular season title for the first time in Minot State history is my favourite game memory.
9. What is the best piece of baseball advice you’ve ever received?
My parents always told me to enjoy every step of the way and have fun. Baseball will humble any player in a heartbeat and it’s important to remember it is a game – embrace the ups and downs and work hard every day.