MOOSIC — There was a point when Eddy Rodriguez wasn’t confident the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders were going to make the playoffs.
They were on the road in a series against the Pawtucket Red Sox in the first weekend of July. The team had just watched some of its best players go to the bigs for the first time: infielders Tyler Wade and Miguel Andujar and outfielders Dustin Fowler and Clint Frazier. Right-hander Bryan Mitchell was called back up, too.
And the RailRiders had just lost two to the Red Sox to open the five-game series. But then guys like Billy McKinney, Jonathan Holder and Ronald Herrera joined the club.
The RailRiders won the next three games to take the series in Pawtucket — and the rest was history.
“Seeing the team come together and pieces of guys coming up — guys were struggling in Double-A and coming up here and superseding their normal results and doing the things they did,” Rodriguez said. “That was what caught my attention that, ‘Hey, we have a shot.’ ”
Considering Rodriguez is 31 years old and caught 80 games for the first time since 2013, this season was one he’ll never forget.
While he had his struggles at the plate, he was one of the best backstops in the International League, throwing out 44.2 percent of baserunners attempting to steal. Rodriguez caught 300 more innings than any of his fellow RailRiders catchers.
“At the cost of one of my teammates getting hurt, I had the chance of a lifetime for a 31-year-old journeyman guy,” Rodriguez said. “Got a lot of opportunities to play on the personal end. On the team end, I think we accomplished quite a bit. We led the league in hitting, we led the league in pitching and I like to think us, as a collective staff on the pitching side, did a great job accomplishing that. We fell short of our ultimate goal, but somebody’s got to win, somebody’s got to lose. They were the better team. They won. They earned it.”
If this is in fact Rodriguez’s last season, he went out with a bang. He did say there was an “outside chance” he returns to the game, but he’s “99 percent” sure he’s done.
When asked what the biggest takeaways of his career were, it wasn’t the accomplishments he achieved on the baseball diamond or reaching the bigs in 2012. It was the people he met and the impact he was able to make off the field.
“I’ve met so many people. That’s, I think, the coolest thing,” Rodriquez said. “I’ve met so many people, built so many relationships. I’ve not cared if it’s a grounds crew (member), bat boy, media, coaches, players, I’ve built relationships. Am I ever going to see them after I’m done? I don’t know, but I’d like to think that I’ve treated those people like they were one of ours and they felt comfortable and could joke around and mess with me as much as I messed with them.
“That’s kind of been my goal throughout my career — see how many people I could reach. Now that I’m done, in my future endeavours, that’s going to kind of be my ‘why.’ My ‘why’ is going to be reaching as many people as I can and engraving in them, ‘Hey man, I grew up in a trailer park and I’ve accomplished quite a bit. So if I could do it — I have no special talents — we all are just fine.’ ”
When asked if his future endeavours included baseball, his response was simple.
“Maybe, maybe not,” Rodriguez said with a smirk.