DuBOIS, Pa. – One thousand seven hundred and thirty-five miles. If you drew a straight line between Bayamón, Puerto Rico and DuBois, Pennsylvania, that is the approximate distance you would get. Although he has had stops in other locations along the way, that distance has been covered by Jorge Rodriquez in his lifetime. His journey has now brought him to Penn State DuBois, where he is a member of the Nittany Lion baseball team.
Baseball is considered the most popular sport in Puerto Rico. In terms of spectators and active participants, it is considered the premier sport on the island. Introduced to the island in the late 19th century, the first two baseball clubs were founded in Puerto Rico in 1897. While the sport was initially ridiculed as unmanly exhibition, the sport began to catch on when the local teams regularly defeated the more experienced American teams. Presently, Puerto Rico is represented by more than 25 players in Major League Baseball.
Rodriquez grew up in Bayamón with Dominican parents who met in Puerto Rico, and baseball became part of his life at a young age. Playing the game and being part of teams at the young age of 6, Rodriquez found a natural interest and love for the game. As he grew older, his parents wanted to give every opportunity for their children to attend college. Moving to the United States offered that chance and the family completed that move in 2017. They settled in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, where several members of the extended family on his father’s side were already located. It also wasn’t too far away from family members on his mother’s side, who live in New York. It was in Hazleton where Rodriquez began playing organized baseball, first for the local American Legion team as well as travel ball teams and for his high school.
“What drew me to baseball first was my cousin,” Rodriquez said. “He played a lot of sports before I did, and my dad would ask me if I wanted to try them and I would say ‘Why not?’. My cousin started taking me to his practices and eventually I joined his team and we got to play together.”
Family has played a big role in Rodriquez’s life. While many young athletes will often point to their favorite player as their biggest influence, family is who Rodriquez specifies. From following in his cousin’s lead in multiple sports, to looking up to his father and his love for the game of baseball, Rodriquez's family has been guiding light throughout. And, correspondingly, his family members are his biggest fans.
My dad wanted to play baseball. He obviously couldn’t do it because he was focused on caring for his family. So, he inspired me to fulfill that dream, both for myself and him
—Jorge Rodriguez , Penn State DuBois freshman baseball player
“My dad wanted to play baseball,” Rodriquez said. "He obviously couldn’t do it because he was focused on caring for his family. So, he inspired me to fulfill that dream, both for myself and him.”
Rodriquez also has a cousin who is currently playing professional baseball abroad.
Being in a new country at a young age can be very hard for anyone. Hurdles such as language barriers and cultural barriers can make the transition a challenge. Rodriquez had numerous people that helped him get over these hurdles. In addition to his family, he credits his American Legion coaches for helping him get through the language issues he first had. While he came to the United States knowing how to speak English, he wasn’t perfect at it, both from an understanding and speaking standpoint. But his coaches helped him get through this on the baseball diamond, thus allowing him to enjoy the game he loved in his new country.
It was while he was playing travel ball that Rodriquez first got his connection to Penn State DuBois. Considering his college options as he approached the end of his time in high school, one of his coaches informed him about the baseball program at Penn State DuBois and encouraged him to talk to the Nittany Lion coaches if he was interested. That got the ball rolling. He visited the campus and the facilities and as the saying goes, “the rest is history.” Rodriquez committed to Penn State DuBois to be part of the baseball team and the campus community.
“The size of the campus really drew me in,” Rodriguez said. “Being able to talk to your professors, getting more attention from them and still getting that great education is what really sold me.”
When asked about his first-year experience as a member of the baseball team, Rodriquez described it as fun, interesting and a learning experience. He credits the upperclassmen with helping him to learn the ropes of college baseball and the operations of a new team.
Every upperclassman will guide you up. Any questions you have about things on the field, classes, really life in general they will help you out. They have been a big part of my transition from high school ball to college ball.
—Jorge Rodriguez , Penn State DuBois freshman baseball player
“Every upperclassman will guide you up,” Rodriquez said. “Any questions you have about things on the field, classes, [or] life in general, they will help you out. They have been a big part of my transition from high school ball to college ball.”
Rodriquez also credits being part of the baseball team with helping him gain life skills that can be used in the classroom as he pursues his degree in business, from being disciplined to keeping focused on the task at hand to being accountable for mistakes. All of these are skills that can be used every day, and the importance of them is being driven home by being part of the team.
On the field, Rodriquez has seen action in five games so far and he holds a perfect batting average with three hits, including a triple, in three at bats. He also has two RBIs and has scored three times. To this point in the season he has been flawless defensively as well, having not committed any errors.
Off the field, Rodriquez is working to complete his business degree and use the skills he learns to one day own his own business. While he doesn’t yet know exactly what type of business venture he will pursue, he does know he would like it to be in something that keeps him involved in sports.
“I have a real love for sports,” Rodriquez said. "While I know that sports are a broad topic, as long as I’m involved in sports I know I’ll be fine.”