Rodríguez shares pride over many accolades

MLB's recently promoted No. 5 prospect to play in Futures Game and Olympics

July 4th, 2021

SEATTLE -- There might not be another prospect in baseball who is ascending as rapidly as the Mariners’ .

In the past week alone, J-Rod became an Olympian, was named a SiriusXM Futures Game All-Star and was promoted to Double-A Arkansas, putting him one step closer to the big leagues. And with the effusive smile, infectious character -- and, chiefly -- his prodigious power, baseball fans will likely have long known his name by the time he reaches The Show.

“There’s been a lot going on. I love it,” Rodríguez said Saturday. “I'm really enjoying every single moment of it. And I'm really excited to have all these opportunities and all the doors that are opening for me right now. … There's a lot of dreams coming true, like back-to-back-to-back.”

Rodríguez has been a household name in prospect circles for years now, and he’s become the face of the Mariners’ No. 3-ranked farm system in 2021. But this month, the 20-year-old, ranked as MLB Pipeline’s No. 5 overall prospect, reaches the most prominent stages yet.

The casual MLB fan tuning in to the Futures Game on July 11 at Coors Field will get a first glimpse at the towering right fielder, whose personality matches every bit of his 6-foot-3, 180-pound frame. And on a grander stage, the world will, too, when J-Rod suits up for the Dominican Republic in the Tokyo Olympics, with more than 300 countries participating.

Rodríguez said that representing his country, especially one as fervently invested in baseball as the D.R., carries more significance than any achievement of his career to this point. The setting where Rodríguez learned how to play baseball was full pageantry and passion, flamboyance and flair -- very similar, but also very different, from the Asian countries that also have very tradition-rich baseball culture. That level of competition is what he’s most looking forward to.

“I heard that Japan is bringing their best stars, and Korea is doing the same thing,” Rodríguez said. “USA has a really good team, too. Just facing those teams on the biggest stage and seeing what it actually is, and actually their taste of baseball, too. I've never faced like a team from Japan or Korea. I don't know what type of baseball they have or how they play, so I want to face them and have that experience on the really high stage that the Olympics are."

The Opening Ceremony for the Tokyo Games is July 23, and though rosters haven’t been finalized, the Mariners have given J-Rod their blessing to participate. And given the way he played in the qualifiers over the past two months, the D.R. could certainly use him when it makes its first appearance in the Olympics since 1992.

“I have never felt like this before playing baseball. I've been enjoying this game. I love playing this game every single day. But whenever I put the Dominican Republic jersey on me and I have the Dominican on my chest, it just feels so different. I just felt a whole different level of emotions.”

How proud of him are his family and friends from Loma de Cabrera, D.R., population 20,665, for reaching this stage?

“I’m from a really small town,” Rodríguez said. “By me coming out of there and actually being on this team … they were really excited for it. They were there since I started playing this game. So, they see me where I am right now and the things that I'm accomplishing, and they were really happy.”

In the first qualifier in May, Rodríguez hit .458/.480/.708 with two homers and seven RBIs. Then in the second one in June, Rodríguez made a diving catch in the right-center gap in the win that clinched a Tokyo berth on June 26. It was a showcase of his impressive glove, which has at times has been lost in the noise of his elite bat.

Everything is clicking right now for Rodríguez, who is off to a 6-for-14 start at Double-A, including his first homer on Friday. And this comes after he led the High-A West League in batting average (.325), slugging percentage (.581) and OPS (.992) over 28 games with a loaded Everett team.

Now comes the next challenge of Arkansas’ pitcher-friendly Dickey-Stephens Park, where Rodríguez will likely need to continue allocating his power to the opposite field. But so far, so good.

So, after his monster May and June, and a July in which he could go even more mainstream, what will be next for Rodríguez when he returns from Tokyo? Arkansas' season wraps on Sept. 19, with the chance at playoffs after, which wouldn’t leave him a ton of time to play his way up to Triple-A Tacoma, but it’s certainly a possibility. That would have him knocking on the Major League door leading into 2022.

“Just keep playing, keep being me, just staying safe, being healthy on the field and keep performing with my teammates,” said Rodríguez. “That's all I'm looking for. At the end of the year, if there’s more promotions, I don't really know about that, but I'm just looking forward to keep being myself, staying healthy and keep performing every single day.”