Odor hails from true baseball family
Stomping Grounds: Second baseman learned to love the game in Venezuela
ARLINGTON -- Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor can still remember the time he turned an unassisted triple play.
"I was playing second," Odor said. "I always played second or shortstop. Men on first and second, they hit me a line drive. I caught the line drive, the runner on first broke to second and the runner from second broke for third. When the runner from second came back, I tagged him and then I tagged the runner coming from first."
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Odor was 4 years old, long before he was having an impact in the American League Division Series, which will continue tonight at 8 p.m. ET on MLB Network. He was not playing in the backyard or at the local park down the street. He was playing in a national tournament in Venezuela, representing his hometown of Maracaibo. It was a "Coach Pitch" League.
"I think I represented Maracaibo about 15 times, growing up, in a national tournament," Odor said.
Ever been the Most Valuable Player of the tournament?
"Yeah, lots of times," Odor said. "I don't remember how many. I have lots of trophies back home."
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Home is in Maracaibo, the second-largest city in Venezuela. It is located in the northwestern part of the country on a neck of land situated between Lake Maracaibo and the Gulf of Venezuela. Known as the "Beloved Land of the Sun," and once a favorite target for pirates such as Henry Morgan and Michel de Grammont, Maracaibo is Venezuela's hottest city, but it's also renown for the unique culture developed in isolation from the rest of the country.
It is a city known for its folk music, colonial architecture, museums, universities and desserts. But the only culture Odor was interested in was baseball.
He grew in a baseball family, just like another Maracaibo native, Hall of Fame shortstop Luis Aparicio. Odor's father was also named Rougned, who played at the University of New Orleans until his knees gave out. He then spent nine years scouting Venezuela for the Cleveland Indians.
One uncle on his father's side, Rouglas Odor, is currently a hitting coach in the Indians organization. Three uncles from his mother Maria's side, played baseball for Aguilas de Zulia, the local Venezuelan Winter League team. One of them, Eddie Zambrano, played outfield and first base for the Cubs from 1993-94.
Video: [email protected] Gm2: Odor barehands one for final out in 8th
"I used to go watch my uncles play," Odor said. "There were three of them, and they were in the same outfield at the same time. I was just a baby and I would be in the dugout. I have a picture of Miguel Cabrera holding me in the dugout. He played with my uncles.
"First time I played baseball, I was 2 years old. My dad was always working, so I would go to the field with my mother and my grandfather. I always played baseball. It was amazing. We all would go to my grandma's and I would always hear everything about baseball. I grew up with baseball in my life."
Odor's paternal grandfather was Douglas Odor, who was the first influence on Rougned because his father was always busy scouting.
"My grandfather helped me a lot," Odor said. "He would come by my house, pick me up and take me to go play baseball. He really helped me a lot while my dad was away. We would get up at five o'clock in the morning and go to the stadium. He would hit me ground balls and pitch batting practice, we would do that every day."
"When I was 4 to 6 years old and my dad would be scouting players who were 15 to 18 years old, I used to go practice with them. I would be playing catch with the big guys. I loved catching fly balls, so my dad would sit there and hit me long fly balls."
Rangers manager Jeff Banister said Odor has the skills and abilities often associated with players who come from baseball families.
"Yes, they are instinctive," Banister said. "You can tell a difference. … They develop a great vision and feel for the game of baseball."
Odor cannot remember a time when he was not playing baseball. At one point, he thought about one day being in the Army, but that was just fleeting. His burning desire was to be a baseball player. School was important mainly because if he didn't do well, there would be no baseball. Maria Odor made sure of that.
"I was OK," Odor said. "I didn't like it too much, but my mom said, 'If you don't do good in school, you're not going to play baseball.' My mom always talked to me about school, my dad would talk about baseball. My mom said, 'First, you have to do everything right in school and then you can go play baseball.'"
Video: [email protected] Gm1: Odor lines a solo shot to right field
He did enough right to be on all the Venezuela national teams, traveling to international tournamenrs in Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico and Taiwan. Odor was the All-Star second baseman at the 2009 World Youth Baseball Tournament in Taiwan. A couple of years later, he signed with the Rangers for $425,000, and he's now playing in the ALDS. He hit a home run and scored three runs in Thursday's 5-3, Game 1 win, then scored the go-ahead run in Friday's 6-4, Game 2 win.
"I think growing up in a baseball family and representing Maracaibo really helped me, because I always played real baseball in front of a lot of fans and with older players," Odor said. "That helped me a lot. I think the one thing that really helped me was being with my family. We always talked about baseball, they taught me a lot about baseball. That's the one thing that helped a lot is being from a baseball family."