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Blessed & Determined: Catcher Jeremy Rodriguez 

Ballplayers are well-known creatures of habit. On any given game day, baseball players tend to follow some sort of ritual that allows them to get zoned in on what is important and necessary to achieve success once game time starts. They have their game day meal, they wear their hat a certain way, their glove is tied either tightly or loosely, and their batting gloves might need an adjustment by tightening their Velcro straps at least once. Or twice. Or maybe three times.

Sure, the monotonous and tedious nature of game day preparation is a pseudo-science that transcends ball clubs and permeates across the entire sport. Players will even make it a habit to goof around and stay loose in the clubhouse – perhaps going so far as pranking their own teammates – and frankly, there’s also just a general consensus that if you’re not having fun, then you’re not doing this children’s game any justice. But when first pitch rolls around and the clock hit’s 7:05pm?

When it’s  7:05, or game time… it’s time for business.”

Catcher Jeremy Rodriguez of the Lake Elsinore Storm is a player who certainly understands the necessity of keeping a loose atmosphere in the clubhouse, but also knows the importance of following the diligent path to consistency and success.

Our Manager, Jamie Quirkkeeps us relaxed in the clubhouse. He knows that we have a job to do but you can’t always be too serious playing this game. We have a lot of jokesters on this team but everyone gets ready when they have to.

There must be something to that, of course, since Lake Elsinore is playing comfortably up at the Diamond with a record that is 10-games over the .500 mark. The Storm have done a wonderful job all season long platooning at the top of the California League South Standings with the rival Lancaster Jethawks, but some consistency will certainly allow the Storm to keep their eyes on the prize and regain the top spot in the Southern division.

One way to achieve consistency as a team? Be consistent as a player.

“I love to stay loose, but you know every morning I actually make an egg-white omelet. Every morning” says J-Rod. “I don’t know why egg-white specifically but I just have to have an egg-white omelet every morning on game day. I’ll put some Swiss cheese and Canadian bacon inside of it… then I’ll come to the field and have a protein shake. And that’s usually my eating ritual.”

Aside from cross-fit maniacs and devout dieters, I personally don’t know too many people who have an eating-ritual. But the fact that Jeremy has one just for game day gives you a vague idea as to the preparation that goes into this sport.

I also have a baseball playlist for when I get to the field too, which contains 29 songs that I’ll listen to before the game… and then the last thing I’ll do before it’s time to go is I’ll read three scriptures in the bible… to kind of calm me down mentally.

Like most ballplayers, Jeremy also sees playing baseball – at all – as a gift. “Rituals and preparation aside, I feel blessed to be playing this game that I love so much day in and day out. We’re playing a kid’s game out here, and I think we’re very lucky to do that.”

Sure, it’s a kid’s game played by adults but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t difficult to make it there. When asked about giving advice for young kids who want to one day step onto the field as professionals, Jeremy had one very solid piece of advice: “To be honest, you just need to work hard. The work ethic is gonna take you a long way.”

Work ethic? “Not just on the field, but off the field as well. I think I’m a good example… I’m 5’ 5” and most people expect ball players to be bigger.” But what about 2002 World Series MVP David Eckstein who also stood in at 5’ 6”? “You don’t see that very often, if at all. I’ve been told often, or all my life, that I am small and that and this… but…”

But?

“…if you have a dream, and you want it that bad and you’ll do whatever it takes to get it, you’ll do it. For me, my dream was to play professional baseball and with hard work and God’s grace… it happened.”

Very cool advice from a very humble ballplayer. So humble in fact that his proudest achievement is one that came not on the field, but off the field and in the classroom. “My proudest achievement, individually, would be when I graduated college. I graduated this past fall, and I was the first member of my whole family to actually graduate school… that meant a lot to me and my family.

But what about on the field? “Probably, on the field, would be when I was drafted.

Jeremy was drafted by the Padres in the 16th round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of CSU Bakersfield.

It’s a lot of people’s dream (to be drafted), and I’m just thankful that the Padres gave me an opportunity to live my dream.

It’s not too often that you find a ballplayer who completed their college education. In fact, Jeremy was 36 units shy of graduating before he was drafted by the Padres during his Junior year. Jeremy had made a promise to his mother to actually finish college, so how did he manage being both a professional athlete and also a student?

I went back (to school) every fall. It was the quarter system up at CSU Bakersfield, so I’d usually have a week after the season was done and then I would go straight into classes. I would finish sometime in early December…”

If being a student-athlete wasn’t enough, J-Rod had even more to bring to the table. “I would work with kids while I was up at school, too, and I would attend a lot of charity events while I was doing classes… my education was important, and my dream was important too, so I would also  train with my college baseball team while I was there.

Certainly, a college educated man like Jeremy Rodriguez would know the key to success for his team: “Consistency. This team has a lot of talent and I know we can win a lot of baseball games and I know we can bring another league title here, but I think if we can stay consistent and stay healthy and just have fun we will be okay.”

“A lot of people say, you know, that we are grown men playing a little kids game, but I feel like if we just take the little things and enjoy this game… I think we can bring another title to Lake Elsinore.”

There’s a lot of wisdom that flows from the calm and collected Rodriguez who is playing in his fourth season of professional baseball as a backstop. What’s the number one thing that J-Rod would want fans to know about him? “I would want people to know that I enjoy life. I play the game the right way, and I always give praise to God for everything that I do.” A cool smile appeared on Jeremy’s face after saying that.

Jeremy is in his fourth season of Minor League Baseball, having played parts of the last three seasons between Double-A San Antonio and Single-A Advanced Lake Elsinore. For a man who commands the playing field and spends his time behind the dish taking heater after heater, Jeremy is an extremely laid-back and cordial individual who any fan would be lucky to talk to.

Fans can find Jeremy giving it his all day in and day out with his Storm teammates up at the Diamond in Lake Elsinore, and also be sure to give him a follow on Twitter through his handle @Baseballingjrod.

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About the author: Ian Edward Russell Smith

Ian is a former writer for the San Diego Padres, having worked as the Padres' "In-Season Blogger" during the 2015 season. Ian wrote as a member of the Friarhood's writing staff between parts of 2013-2015, writing over 100 articles over that span. In addition to being a writer, Ian is also a recent graduate of California Western School of Law in San Diego, having earned a Juris Doctor, as well as his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science/Law & Society from the University of California, Riverside. Be sure to follow Ian on Twitter (@SDRedBull8) to see what other ramblings he's posted about the Padres, San Diego, and baseball in general!