June 9, 2023


stressful sport

Another Kid shining in center

4 min read
The Seattle Mariners’ Julio Rodriguez, left, reacts with third base coach Manny Acta after hitting a two-run home run during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres on Monday in San Diego. (Gregory Bull/The Associated Press)

The Seattle Mariners’ Julio Rodriguez, still left, reacts with third base coach Manny Acta just after hitting a two-run house operate during the fourth inning of a baseball video game versus the San Diego Padres on Monday in San Diego. (Gregory Bull/The Associated Press)

SEATTLE — At the end of each and every warmup prior to commencing an inning on defense in heart subject, Julio Rodríguez pauses. He scans the crowd at T-Cell Park and picks a course to send a souvenir ball into the stands.

“I wish I could just give a great souvenir to every person that will come to the industry,” Rodríguez mentioned. “But however, it is not like that.”

Not to fret. Rodríguez is performing his aspect to deliver souvenirs and highlights for Mariners lovers, and creating the assertion there would seem to be a burgeoning star in the Pacific Northwest.

Welcome to the J-Rod Present.

When Rodríguez built the Mariners opening day roster, it was a signal the long run experienced arrived forward of routine. And immediately after a rocky initially several months, the 21-year-previous Rodríguez is flourishing and proving his arrival in the majors was ideal on time.

He’s been the AL rookie of the thirty day period in consecutive months. He was the AL participant of the week previous 7 days. He may be the midseason leader for AL rookie of the calendar year. And he could obtain himself an All-Star in a pair of months.

There is no problem Rodríguez is owning enjoyment in the method. The bat flips and shuffles rounding third right after extended dwelling runs. The grins after claiming a further stolen foundation. Followers clamoring for Rodríguez to throw them a ball prior to the commence of each and every inning.

“I have to engage in that way. … Which is how I acquired how to engage in the activity. That is how I fell in adore with the activity,” Rodríguez explained. “I come to feel like it is very vital to me to just be equipped to love what I’m executing. I’m doing this for the reason that I delight in doing it and it is a fairly great sport. Getting equipped to enjoy with pleasure, I really feel like, is very critical to me.”

Griffey Jr. similarities

It’s strikingly reminiscent of one more youthful star who the moment patrolled center industry in Seattle. And while it is unfair to make key comparisons involving what Ken Griffey Jr. was and what Rodríguez may well turn into, there are similarities worth noting.

By the initially 81 games of his rookie season, Griffey hit .282 with an .809 OPS, 13 residence runs, 13 doubles and 43 RBIs.

Rodríguez performed in his 82nd activity on Tuesday in Seattle’s 6-2 get in San Diego. His quantities at the stop of the working day: .277 batting typical with an .823 OPS, 15 homers, 16 doubles and 43 RBIs. Rodríguez did not hit his first home operate till May 1 in Miami and has 15 in the previous 62 game titles played.

Rodríguez is the only player in league historical past to have 15 or far more homers, 15 or additional doubles and 20 or a lot more stolen bases in the initial 81 online games of his vocation.

Extra to what Rodríguez is doing at the plate is he’s been understanding heart subject on the fly. He was primarily a corner outfielder in the minors.

“He performs the recreation hard. Performs the recreation the appropriate way,” Seattle outfielder Jesse Winker explained. “Young kid does so numerous matters right. Great child.”

It’s not meant to be as simple as Rodríguez appears to be producing his rookie time look. He was the AL rookie of the thirty day period for Might and June. Past 7 days, he hit .360 with a few homers and a 1.273 OPS in 7 video games to be named the AL participant of the week.

As his figures have enhanced, so has the buzz together with Houston’s Jeremy Pena and Kansas City’s Bobby Witt Jr. as the favorites for AL rookie of the 12 months at the midpoint of the time. But Rodríguez’s quantities are so excellent, his scenario for getting on the AL All-Star crew has strengthened.

If Rodríguez does close up in Los Angeles, he would be part of incredibly pick company. Considering that the expansion era started off in 1961, only 14 position gamers under the age of 22 have been named All-Stars in their rookie seasons. Amid the names on that record: Albert Pujols, Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Tim Raines, Johnny Bench and Rod Carew.

Does he belong in the activity?

“I don’t know. I just truly feel like I belong up in this article, and I’m undertaking the most effective with my chances,” Rodríguez said. “That will choose care of by itself.”

Sluggish commence shaken off

The year didn’t start this way for Rodríguez. His 1st couple of months were being exams in patience and inquiries of irrespective of whether he was genuinely all set to be in the majors. He was plagued by named third strikes that appeared outside the house the strike zone and setting up stress with phone calls that weren’t going his way.

But Rodríguez remained steadfast in his strategy. He didn’t change and start chasing pitches that weren’t strikes. He confirmed maturity not frequently connected with 21-yr-olds. His batting normal dipped to .136 on April 21, just 12 games into his debut. In the 70 game titles given that, Rodríguez is hitting .301.

“It was hard for him early on,” Seattle supervisor Scott Servais reported. “And I acquired a ton about just his motivation to his plan, his method, whatever you want to call it. He didn’t waver. And it’s seriously exclusive for gamers not to waver. I really do not treatment how a great deal working experience they have in this league.”

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