Batting champ making a western swing

Baseball: Thomas ‘T-Rod’ Rodigues named Dawgs MVP

By: Bruce Campbell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jan 22, 2014 06:00 am

Okotoks Dawgs shortstop Thomas Rodrigues, here making a force out in the Western Major Baseball League playoffs, will receive his Dawgs MVP award at the team’s annual banquet on Feb. 1 at the Foothills Centennial Centre.
Okotoks Dawgs shortstop Thomas Rodrigues, here making a force out in the Western Major Baseball League playoffs, will receive his Dawgs MVP award at the team’s annual banquet on Feb. 1 at the Foothills Centennial Centre.
Jordan Verlage/OWW

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The Western Major Baseball League batting champion is making a cross-country detour from his studies at an American university.

Thomas ‘T-Rod’ Rodrigues is coming in from the northeast United States to accept the 2013 Okotoks Dawgs Most Valuable Player Award at the team’s annual banquet on Feb. 1 at the Foothills Centennial Centre.

“This is a once and a lifetime kind of thing to win this award,” said Rodrigues from Niagara, N.Y. “I like coming to Okotoks. I know a couple of the guys (Dawgs) are going to be there and I want to come out and visit my friends in Okotoks.”

Rodrigues had what is hopefully for Dawgs fans not a once-in-a-lifetime season for him. The Quebec native led the WMBL circuit in hitting with a .394 average. He also mashed five home runs and drove in 30 runs.

“The highlight for me was bringing home the batting title — I will never forget that,” he said.

Despite the gaudy numbers, it took him by surprise when he heard in October he was selected MVP.

“I was thrilled,” Rodrigues said. “There were a lot of good players on that team, who could have been selected. It is quite a big honour.”

He said infielders Sean Kettering, Zac Asman, catcher Jordan Procyshen and pitcher Hayden Cleveland are just some of the Dawgs who could have won the award.

He credited his success to growing up in what was his second year in Okotoks’ red-and-white.

“I was more mature and a smarter baseball player,” Rodrigues said. “I was able to slow the game down and not think so much and just try and let some of my talent just come out…

“I knew what it took to get through a grueling season. It was a shock my first year with the Dawgs to have to play every day. Having that experience helped me handle it better… I became a better player and a better person.”

Rodrigues was a shortstop in 2012, however, last season he also saw duty at second base to make room for hard-hitting shortstop Kettering.

“I liked it,” Rodrigues said. “I think it is a fun opportunity to move around. I find it gives me a more relaxed feeling you feel that you have the trust of your coach.”

Whether it is second base, shortstop, DH or maybe helping Darcy sell peanuts and Cracker Jacks, Rodrigues will be back at Seaman Stadium in 2014. He will return to the home of the Big Rock after completing his senior year with Niagara this season.

“I don’t want to stop playing baseball, I would like to play further and I think the Dawgs give me a better chance (to play at the next level),” he said. “Even if I don’t play any further, I think it is a great way to say goodbye. I really like Okotoks. The main goal is to win a championship for the fans there.”

Dawgs coach AJ Fystro said getting Rodrigues on the dotted line was a top priority after the final pitch of the 2013 season.

“He was probably our first signing,” Fystro said. “He is a leader on a team and the kind of guy you want back to carry on the Dawgs’ tradition.”

Although Fystro didn’t coach Rodrigues in his rookie season, the coach stated the sophomore Rodrigues was focused right from the first batting practice pitch.

“He was a guy with 100 per cent focus to become a better player,” Fystro said. “It is summer baseball, but you are supposed to be going back to college better than when you came here — especially with the facilities we have here.

“He comes in early to lift weights, going home to get dinner and then coming back to take groundballs and taking hacks.”

The fact he hit .394 also helped persuade the Dawgs’ brass to invite him back.

“A lot of his success comes from his presence at the plate — you don’t feel you can get him with a certain pitch,” Fystro said. “He covers the plate well, is aggressive and doesn’t let pitcher’s mistakes go.”

The other Dawgs recipients at the banquet are: True Grit, Jordan Procyshen; Pitcher of the Year, Hayden Cleveland and Rookie of the Year, Josh Myers.

The guest speaker is former New York Yankee and Toronto Blue Jay infielder Homer Bush.

Proceeds from the banquet will go towards funding the non-profit Dawgs organization’s programs.

The Dawgs Academy consists of elite Midget and Bantam programs to complement the college team.

The Midgets had teams play in the national championship final in each of the past two years.

For ticket information concerning the banquet go to www.dawgsbaseball.ca or call 403-262-DAWG (3294).

bcampbell@okotoks.greatwest.ca


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