Scout Invites Rodriguez to MLB Tryout in Arizona
By Rodney S. Yap
Before he commits to his academic career path, Ryan Rodriguez is going to take a swing at professional baseball.
The former St. Anthony High School standout, who is two semesters away from a degree in exercise and sports science, left Maui on Saturday to prep for a free-agent baseball tryout in Arizona.
The opportunity to showcase his skills at the 2013 Major League Scouting Bureau US Tryout Camp, Sunday, June 30, at Pima Community College in Tucson, gives the 21-year-old Rodriguez options to his immediate future.
Rodriguez’ plan for this summer — leading into his senior season at Concordia University (Ore.) — got a boost last month when Mark “Buda” Budaska, the hitting coach for the Memphis Redbirds’ AAA team of the St. Louis Cardinals called the Valley Isle prospect.
“He called and said he was going to be on Maui and he wanted to meet with me,” said the 2009 Trojan graduate and four-year starter. “He said, ‘I know the player,’ but when he was here he was looking to see the kind of athlete and person I am off the field.”
With the help of Maui High School baseball coach Chase Corniel, Rodriguez met Budaska at the Sabers’ batting cages, where he hit baseballs from a pitching machine for 10 rounds.
“He wanted to see me from when I was fresh to when I was tired. So I must have taken about 110 swings. He was pleased with what he saw. He asked me to tweak some things and then he invited me to come to Arizona.”
Rodriguez estimates between 80 to 90 players will be participating in the one-day tryout sponsored by the territorial scouts from the Major League Scouting Bureau. The scouts work for Major League Baseball and all 30 MLB organizations.
“Scouts from every organization is going to be there, but from what I know, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Seattle Mariners are interested in me.”
The tryout camp is the seventh of 10 events held over a one-month span, from June 10 to July 9.
Earlier this month, senior graduate’s Akoni Arriaga of Baldwin and Mark Karaviotis of Maui High were selected to the Toronto Blue Jays in the 35th round and Arizona Diamondbacks in the 39th round of the Major League Baseball draft. Both Arriaga and Karaviotis played shortstop and pitched in 2013, respectfully.
The 6-foot, 2-inch, 195-pound Rodriguez said he will tryout at second base, his strongest infield position, where he assisted on a conference record-tying five double plays in one game his sophomore season.
“I’m really excited to show my bat offense and my defensive skills. I’m not the fastest guy in the nation, but I feel really confident in my defense and I feel confident about my bat and all-around baseball mentality.”
Besides daily workouts at St. Anthony’s weight room, Rodriguez returned to Portland to play “five or six games” in the West Coast League this week to sharpen his skills.
“I’ve played in this league for the last three summers. There are players from all over the West Coast and its good competition.
“I think if they (the scouts) see something in me they like, I could sign a free-agent contract that day or I could go back to school for my last year of college ball. Either way, I’m excited and I’m grateful to have the support system that I have in my family, friends, and past coaches.”
When Rodriguez arrived at Concordia he was 6-1, 180.
“My first year I really didn’t get to play much and I sat behind a senior and that was something that really got to me and since then I’ve been working hard because I really wanted to start.
“My sophomore year I was splitting time, and last year (2012) I played pretty much every game. It was humbling and really difficult as a freshman, dealing with school and practice and learning how to manage your time. I learned a lot and it was a great experience. I grew up a lot and it opened my mind to a lot of things and I began to think differently and prepare differently, both physically and mentally.
“At Concordia we play competitive baseball for an NAIA school. We are going to be an older team next year, we only lose six players and three starters.”
Rodriguez hit the school’s first grand slam at the new on-campus Hilken Community Stadium in 2012, against the college of Idaho. He started 25 of 37 games that year and made 22 putouts and had 54 assists to finish with a .954 fielding percentage.
“I’ve had to work hard off the field by myself because my coach didn’t really give me a lot of opportunities,” remarked Rodriguez, who managed to keep his athletic scholarship after choosing to sit out last season. “I had to make my own opportunities, that’s why I’m here and I’m motivated. This experience taught me to be very confident, but in a humble way.”