After grounding out in his first plate appearance Saturday against Colorado Springs, catcher Eddy Rodriguez drove the ball over the wall to left-center field for his first home run of the season as a Tucson Padre. It wasn't a powerful blast, but rather a display of the "sneaky pop" Rodriguez said he has.
The solo shot also was reminiscent of a similar home run he had almost a year ago. But that hit was for the San Diego Padres against Cincinnati Reds ace Johnny Cueto. It was also Rodriguez's first career MLB at-bat.
His home run was the "icing on the cake," as he described it, to a journey that took him from having a below-average season for Class A Lake Elsinore to trotting around the bases at Great American Ball Park in a matter of days.
"For me, getting to the big leagues was my goal," Rodriguez said, "the one thing I've always wanted to accomplish since I was a little kid and why I've stuck around this game for such a long time."
Rodriguez served as a stopgap measure for San Diego because of injury issues, so his dream was short lived as the Padres sent him down to Tucson for the remainder of the season.
He left San Diego with just one hit, a hit that will be hard to forget.
"I felt like I was floating around the bases out there," he said. "And for me to be floating around the bases, that takes a lot because I'm not the fastest guy."
Current teammate Jorge Reyes, who also played with Rodriguez in San Antonio in 2011, said Rodriguez is still the same easy-natured guy now, but he seems to be "enjoying the game a lot more."
Rodriguez, though, said he came away with a new view on the game after seeing the professionalism at the highest level. For someone who aspires to eventually coach, or ideally manage, at the Major League level, a chance to see how the game works was a great learning experience.
It also doesn't have to be his only chance in the big leagues. While Rodriguez's first break came through very unusual circumstances, the 27-year-old is now following a more conventional path within the organization.
He's also not afraid of hard work.
After the Reds cut him in 2009, Rodriguez played in the independent league where the Padres picked him up. Rodriguez said he's just lucky to be here after his family defected from Cuba during his childhood.
"To me it was just one of those high-risk, high-reward scenarios and I'm very fortunate I'm able to tell my story," Rodriguez said. "There are a lot of people who have passed away on those trips and have never been able to tell their stories."
• Who: Tucson at Tacoma
• When: 7 p.m. • Radio: 1290-AM