Rodney wins over teammates with advice, food

March 8th, 2019

MESA, Ariz. -- 's sideways cap routinely draws sideways glances. So does his bow-and-arrow act, a celebratory routine that plays out when the veteran reliever finishes games -- much to the chagrin of the opposition.Ā 

The whole shebang can evoke irritation, even indignation.

"I can't say I was his biggest fan on the other side," A's manager Bob Melvin said, smiling, "but then once you know him, I don't know that there's a more personable guy that we have here. Then you understand the reasons he was doing the things he does out there and you say, 'OK, now it makes sense,' and it plays along with the personality.

"He's just an infectious guy."

Rodney has endeared himself to hundreds in the game over the years. The A's, who acquired the right-hander in a trade with the Twins last summer, are his 10th team. He'll turn 42 when they're in Tokyo later this month, on March 18. Two days later, he'll begin his 17th Major League season.

Among active players, only free agent Bartolo Colon and Ichiro Suzuki, back in Mariners camp on a Minor League deal, are older, at 45.

"I feel my power, I feel my energy, and If I keep feeling like that," Rodney said, "I'm going to keep playing baseball."

The flat-brimmed cap honors his late father, Ulise, a fisherman who wore his hat tilted to the side to dodge the sun. The imaginary arrow salutes La Flecha (Spanish for "arrow"), a local village near Rodney's hometown in the Dominican Republic. He now lives in Florida as a U.S. citizen, made official last year, and has six children.

Then there are the many others that consider him to be like a father figure, several of them residing in the A's clubhouse.

"The way he treats us, it's like, you guys are my kids," right-hander Frankie Montas said. "He says, 'I play with you guys, but I'm old enough to be your guys' dad.'"

"I don't even know how old I was when he started playing," pitching prospect Jesus Luzardo said, "but I've been watching him for a long time."

Luzardo was born in 1997, five years before Rodney made his big league debut with Detroit, and he's among a handful of A's players who frequent Rodney's Spring Training rental in the desert for dinner and dominoes. Montas, along with A's Minor League pitchers Norge Ruiz and Miguel Romero and infielder Jorge Mateo, are also frequent guests.

They eat well. Rodney, who loves to cook, enjoys sharing his go-to meals on his Instagram account, which reveals lots of fish, lots of soup, and the occasional chicken and steak, often accompanied either by rice or plantains. Sweet potatoes and avocado, too.

"We've had everything," Luzardo said. "It's unreal."

"One day, I say, 'Hey, I want to eat chicken today,' so we eat chicken with plantains," Rodney said. "We make a lot of soup. A lot of meat."

He frequents Asian supermarkets that sell produce, like plantains, he can't find at most other grocery stores in the States. Rodney made fast friends with the butcher at one such spot in the Phoenix area, and he now gets calls from him when fresh fish and meat have arrived. He also stocks up on bones to make his own broth for soups.

"He likes to eat, but he takes care of his body," Montas said. "You're always going to find him at the gym doing something. To still be pitching and still throwing hard and have a body like that, that's amazing. You're not going to find a lot of guys that are able to do that. He works so hard."

Montas had his own doubts about Rodney when the A's brought him in, but the skepticism quickly vanished, and the 25-year-old has since turned to him as a mentor.

"You get to talk to him, get to know him, he's a really cool dude," he said. "I respect him a lot. He's just kind of like, 'Hey, this is the way I am and I'm not going to change.'

"He has helped me personally a lot to try to understand the game a little more. The guy of course knows everything. He's been around way too long. He's been helping me with pitch counts and what certain hitters may be looking for, how to pitch in, pitch out, elevate, stuff like that."

Rodney revels in it all, the food, the game, and the company.

"These are good teammates," he said. "A lot of people in this room, you see the faces, it looks like they have fun, and that's something I didn't see in the past. I saw a little bit in Tampa when I was there. Here, it's everybody."