Bringing the Big Top to baseball
Tim Rodriguez knows how to make an entrance. In the halls at Centennial Middle School where he works security, it was the size of his 6-foot-2-inch frame that drew the attention of the students. He caught his coaches eye when he sent a ball over the fence in his first minor league at-bat. But he saved his biggest surprise for his trot into the outfield, which would end with a head-over-heels flip that earned him the billing of the Timmy Brothers Circus by his dugout teammates.
Rodriguez began gymnastics at 5 years old and by middle school he had reached Level 3 status and qualified for a Future Stars competition held at the Olympic training complex in Colorado Springs. His favorite exercise was the floor exercise with its high-energy tumbling runs, while the parallel bars proved to be his nemesis.
It was special to watch Olympians train and be able to use the same equipment they were, Rodriguez said. Gymnastics is about core strength and moving your body, and that combination of strength and balance was huge in baseball.
Rodriguez grew tired of gymnastics as he moved into high school and his passion turned to baseball fueled in part by a family trip to Puerto Rico, which included a trip to the stadium where his dad Rockey played semi-pro ball for the Humacao One-Armed Bandits.
Baseball was life there. They would play in a field, a parking lot, a basketball court anywhere they could get a game going, Rodriguez said. It was then that I realized I wasnt the only one who wanted to play ball.
Rodriguez built a stellar prep career that ended with him being drafted in the 37th round by the Texas Rangers. He spent one season at Mt. Hood Community College before signing on for the pro ranks.
Baseball turned into a year around thing for me. I was constantly working on my game, hitting in the rain, so I went into the batters box confident because I knew no one else was working harder than me, he says. You cant teach love of the game and that is what fueled me.
Rodriguez played six minor-league seasons, spent largely at the single-A level from Spokane to Bakersfield. He was a career .258 hitter with 21 home runs.
Youre always waiting for that break, but even when I was hitting good, the guy above me was hot also and the guy above him, too, Rodriguez said. There is a ladder to climb and it can be a brutal process. Youre trying to outlast the next guy.
Rodriguez last played in the 2010-11 season, but baseball is still a big part of his life. In addition to his security job at the middle school, he has signed on as the hitting and outfield coach at Centennial High where he joins long-time friend and former Little League teammate in head coach Kevin Christie.
Tim has always had a huge love for the game, and that passion comes out when hes coaching the kids, Christie said. Plus having a former pro guy on staff adds a lot of legitimacy to what were trying to get the kids to buy into.
Rodriguez also gets a chance to coach alongside his dad, the Silver Fox, who is a long-time assistant in the Eagles program.
I have a lot of sentiments attached to this field, Rodriguez said. Centennial will always be a special place to me my career started here.
When hes not on the baseball field, Rodriguez enjoys playing Call of Duty on his Xbox or hiking trails in the Gorge.
And even at 27 years old he can still pull off the mid-air acrobatics. Before an end-of-year dodge ball game, he flipped the length of the gym during introductions.
I can still pull it off, but it hurts a bit more now, he laughs.