By Nathaniel Frazier
Eric Rodriguez spent the last two years at Wallace College perfecting his craft. Wednesday morning it all paid off for the catcher from Peurto Rico. Rodriguez got the call that he had been drafted in the 21st round of the Major League Draft by the Cleveland Indians.
"I got the call from someone in their organization asking if I would take a certain amount of money." Rodriguez said. "I told him yes and he said they would be back in touch. He didn't when, but about five minutes later I heard from my uncle (Eric's advisor) who told me I had been drafted. I was actually driving at the time and my phone started to blow up. My aunt called, my grandmother called, everybody was calling and they were all crying. I asked them, 'Why is everybody crying? This is supposed to be a happy day.' "
Rodriguez said he is so excited that he is almost speechless. This is something he has worked his entire life to achieve and the last two years have truly been special.
"I can't say enough about what Coach Mackey (Sasser) and Coach Phillip (Hurst) have meant to me. They have helped me grow as a player and a person and helped make this day possible."
Unlike many others, Rodriguez has still another reason to happy with being selected in the draft. When the season was over, Rodriguez left Dothan and returned to Peurto Rico. He said life is still not easy there.
"We still don't have lights here," he said, and when asked how he was surviving this, he said, "My family. We are all real close and they mean everything to me. I hadn't seen them in six or seven months and I'm just glad to be here no matter the circumstances."
At Wallace, the circumstances were usually pretty good for Rodriguez. He has been the Govs starting catcher for the past two years. In his freshman year, he helped lead the Govs to a state title and a trip to the Junior College World Series. This year, the Govs finished second in the conference.
His defense steadily improved the past two seasons. He became such a vital part of the team that he often caught both games of a double header. This year at the plate he had a batting average of .294 and had 22 RBIs.
"Eric is a good catch and throw guy," Sasser said, a former major league catcher himself. "I told him what he needs to do. He needs to get physically stronger and learn the mental part of the game. Once he improves his hitting, he can really go a long way. Hitting is what will take him to the majors."
"I am super proud of Eric," Hurst said. "When he came here, he didn't know a whole lot of English. But he has done everything we asked him to do in the classroom and on the field. And with him getting drafted, this helps to bring a lot of attention to Wallace College.