The Texas Rangers, enduring a brutal season both on the field with their dismal record and off the field with the resignation of manager Ron Washington caused by cheating on his wife, finally had a moment worth remembering Monday night.
Guilder Rodriguez, 31, who played his entire 13-year career in the minors, got his first major league hit in front of his father, Guillermo, who hadn’t seen him play in a baseball game in the United States since Low-A ball in 2004.
But the story gets even better.
Rodriguez was making his second start. When he got his first hit, it prompted tears from his father, cheering from the Rangers bench, and a standing ovation from the 28,717 fans in attendance.
Then Rodriguez came to bat in the bottom of the seventh.
The Rangers and Astros were tied, 3-3, with two out, and Astros pitcher Nick Tropeano intentionally walked Robinson Chirinos with one man on to pitch to Rodriguez. Rodriguez lined a 1-0 fastball to left to plate what turned out to be the winning run.
Rodriguez said later, “I faced Tropeano a lot in the minor leagues. The last three years, I know how he throws and I’m very familiar with him at home plate…. This is one of the best moments of my life. My first big league hit, my first RBI, my father in the stands, my wife. This is my second-best moment, after my two daughters were born.”
Rodriguez traveled the circuit as a minor leaguer, playing for the affiliates of the Brewers and the Rangers in towns such as Helena, Beloit, Huntsville, Frisco, Oklahoma City, and Round Rock.
His father saw him in Beloit in 2004 and in the Dominican Republic in the offseason by traveling from Venezuela.
Rodriguez served so long in the minors that he mentored two much younger men playing in the infield with him Monday night, Luis Sardinas and Rougned Odor.
Rodriguez had a full night, snaring a popup on the run, making an error on a roller to third, and calming reliever Roman Mendez after he gave up a one-out walk. Mendez acknowledged, “He told me to keep my pitches down. He saw the hitters that were coming up and he wanted to make sure I was calm.” Mendez retired the side after the consultation.
Elvis Andrus, all of 25-years-old, celebrated Rodriguez’s night after the game by inundating the veteran with a Gatorade shower. Interim manager Tim Bogar said, “I think the only way to describe it is special. He got his first hit, it was hard not to cry looking at his dad. It was pretty special. He got a chance to do it in front of his dad. And the second hit that gave us the lead is kind of storybook for us.”
Rodriguez had a lifetime batting average in the minors of .256, an OBP of .337, and averaged 21 RBI and 13 steals a year.