FLUSHING, N.Y. – I’m certain Dereck Rodríguez’s father didn’t even consider the possibility of dropping off his dear son at a nursery when he already knew the best educational experience for his child was to observe, watch and play inside a Major League Baseball clubhouse.
I’m sure if you asked Sandy Alomar Sr. how important those formative years were for his two phenomenal sons Sandy Jr. and Roberto who would make an indelible impact in the game while accompanying their All-Star dad to the ballpark.
I think we would unanimously agree that Sandy Alomar’s parenting actually worked.
And I wouldn’t be surprised if the colorful blocks usually found on a wooden table in an after-school program were replaced with a tightly stitched baseball, a leather glove and a wooden bat.
Now, when your unbelievably talented father happens to be a 14x All-Star, 13x Gold Glove Award, 7x Silver Slugger Award winner, a 1999 AL MVP, a 2003 World Series champion and 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee, surely with such an extraordinary resume, there’s going to be pressure and certainly there will always be the comparison.
Sitting in the visitor’s dugout at Citi Field with the talented Boricua son of Ivan “Pudge” Rodríguez, I found his charming son, whose long hair matches his pitching counterpart with the New York Mets and who also has a rather striking resemblance to his legendary father, to be quite pleasant and good-natured.
During our sit-down while we spoke in English and Spanish, Dereck shared what fatherly advice his dad imparted to him once he was drafted in 2011, a favorite moment from his dad’s historic career, the transition from the minors to the Major Leagues and his favorite player of all-time who just so happened to play on the same team with his father.
Now that you are playing professionally, what advice or inspirational quotes has your dad shared with you that to this day are stuck in your mind?
He’s always giving me advice. There’s not one piece of advice that I stick with. My dad was always a hard worker. He said, “If you want something, you have to work hard for it.” He wasn’t wrong. This is one of the hardest sports to play in the world. When you are not working hard, someone is trying to take your job. You have to constantly be on top of your toes. He always told me that the day you feel lazy, there’s someone else working harder.
Can you describe your favorite “Pudge Moment” that you actually witnessed?
I saw his whole career. I was born a year in 1992. He was called up the year before. The one that really stands out the most would be the collusion at home plate with J.T. Snow in 2003. In Texas, there were a lot of good memories. His career was a lot of fun.
Going from the minors to the big leagues, what have you found to be the most difficult in that transition?
Consistency. The consistency these guys have in the big leagues is unbelievable. Everyone has a plan. In the minors, you can go out there without a plan and be successful. Here, if you go out there without a plan, you’re going to get exploited very quickly. I think guys are just smarter because the talent in the minors is there. But, some of the guys can’t make that transition.
You originally played an everyday position and now the transition to being a pitcher. Explain how that came to be?
It wasn’t my choice. It was the Twins. They felt I would have a better career as a pitcher. I was always very good defensively, always had a great arm from the outfield but I was very inconsistent with the bat. It was 2013, during the offseason, they told me their plans and what they were thinking. I felt as long as I have a uniform and I’m on the team, I’m happy.
What was your dad’s reaction to the news?
He was upset. He thought I could still swing it a bit but it was probably more of a fatherly reaction. At the end of the day, it’s worked out. Even as a pitcher now, I know how difficult hitting is. I think about that and it’s not easy hitting a ball this big with a bat.
Have any former pitchers provided any advice on pitching in the big leagues? Maybe even some of dad’s former teammates who pitched to him?
No. I grew up around baseball. Even my dad tells me tips about pitching. He’s seen pitchers his whole life. The game is so different from about 10-15 years ago so I see from watching games back then, I could still use in today’s game to help me out.
Who would you say, other than your dad, was your favorite player that you enjoyed watching play baseball?
That’s simple. He played in this city. It was Derek Jeter. He was always my favorite player and one of the greatest memories I had as a kid was going to the All-Star games with my dad and Jeter would sit by himself on the team bus. He would call me over to sit next to him on the bus. We were just in Miami a week ago and he recognized me and called me over. It was pretty cool.
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