Brian Rodriguez was 16 years old when his family moved from their native Dominican Republic to their new home in Weehawken.
“It was very different for me,” Rodriguez said. “In the Dominican Republic, I played baseball all year long. Here, I could only play for a couple of months. It was a big difference. I basically had to start all over here.”
Rodriguez tried hard to get accustomed to his new home.
“I was nervous and afraid,” Rodriguez said. “It took a little time to get used to being here. After a while, I began to feel comfortable.”
Rodriguez enrolled at Weehawken High School, but had a tough time because he had limited use of the English language.
But he did have one thing going for him – immense baseball talents.
“I could see right away that he was a good hitter,” Weehawken head baseball coach Anthony Stratton said. “It started at the end of last year. He became more comfortable and started to hit the ball more.”
“I didn’t know how I would do this season,” Rodriguez said.
When the 2015 season began in March, Rodriguez was more than ready to explode. The junior shortstop, who could also be known as “B-Rod,” was poised to take over.
“From Day One this season, he had a different approach,” Stratton said. “I think he needed that year of maturity, a year to get comfortable. He’s a quiet kid, a shy kid, but he just needed some confidence and understanding that he’s a pretty good hitter.”
Over the last two weeks, B-Rod has been on a complete tear.
“I can’t figure it out,” Stratton said. “He always had the tools, but now he’s more focused and more intense at the plate. He’s become very patient and he’s waiting for his pitches. Right now, he’s just really locked in.”
Rodriguez has collected 13 hits in his last 20 at-bats, including four doubles, four triples, one homer and 12 RBI to go along with eight runs scored.
Last Saturday, Rodriguez was 3-for-3 with a double, two triples and four RBI, as the Indians routed Hudson Catholic, 12-4, in the second round of the Ed “Faa” Ford Memorial Hudson County Baseball Tournament.
Rodriguez also collected a win on the mound, defeating Saddle Brook.
For his efforts, Rodriguez has been selected as the Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the last week.
During one stretch last week, Rodriguez collected 10 hits in 11 at-bats. That’s more than being locked in. That’s totally on fire.
“I feel really good hitting,” Rodriguez said. “I think I was really kind of nervous last year. Now, I’m confident and less nervous. I don’t know how this has happened. It’s all a big surprise. I know I can hit the ball, but I never thought I could do this.”
Stratton said that the explosion is due to hard work over the winter.
“He never missed a single workout during the winter,” Stratton said. “He worked hard at getting better all the time. He wanted to be there all the time.”
So when the season began, Stratton was hopeful to have a leader in B-Rod.
“I knew I could count on him,” Stratton said. “He just makes everyone around him become a better hitter. I knew we needed all of his skills.”
For the season, Rodriguez is hitting a remarkable .547 (40-for-73) with five homers and 32 RBI. Needless to say, he’s been steady throughout the year, but has been borderline unconscious over the last two weeks.
“He’s really picked it up,” said Stratton, whose team is 16-6 and will more than likely face Technology in the opening round of the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I playoffs Monday. “We now can count on him to get the big hit when we need it.”
Rodriguez would now like to take his game to the next level.
“I would love to play baseball in college,” Rodriguez said. “That’s a goal.”
For now, Rodriguez will continue to mash baseballs for the rest of this season – and the next.
“I think I’ll keep trying to do the same thing I’ve been doing,” Rodriguez said. “I’ll just keep doing what the coaches tell me.”
Rodriguez had no idea that there was such a thing as Athlete of the Week. When he was told about the honor, his response was simple.
“That’s cool,” Rodriguez said with a big smile on his face.
“I just have to keep working hard, because I want to win a state title,” Rodriguez said. “Nothing else bothers me.”
It’s safe to say that B-Rod has made a name for himself now in his new hometown –
and the rest of Hudson County. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.