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Miramar’s Experienced Squad Looks To Turn The Corner

Michael Rodriguez fields a throw at third base during a team scrimmage.

If you want to play as a team and succeed as a team, you must first endure the trials and tribulations of struggling as a team. From there, you must be able to pick each other back up, dust yourselves off, and drive each other to improve. That is what forms lasting relationships and the winning tradition. No one understands this better than this year’s Miramar Patriots. Over the past four years, this year’s team has become more than a team; they have become a family.

Remaining in the chair at the head of the table is Mario Rodriguez, who has coached at Miramar since 1992, nearly making him the longest tenured coach in school history. Over that span Rodriguez has seen a lot of different baseball, but overall he believes he has steered the program down the right path.

“I’ve brought consistency here,” Rodriguez says. “I think we’ve gone in the right direction.”

When it comes to this year’s team, it is a squad made up almost entirely of seniors, all of whom have been by Rodriguez’s side for the entirety of their high school careers. Rodriguez believes that this season, they will reap the benefits of their familiarity with him and his style of coaching as well as with each other.

“They’ve all been with me since ninth grade and I haven’t changed,” Rodriguez said. “I have the same signs, I don’t say anything different, I don’t do anything different. Everything is the same. They should be able to relax and bear down this year. It’s going to be tough to beat us.”

The Patriots only managed to win five games or less in each of their last four seasons. But Rodriguez points again to experience as the biggest reason why the group is ready to make such a big jump and be a force to be reckoned with. It is a process which his present day seniors struggled through when they were younger but went a long way in battle testing them.

“The bottom line is experience,” Rodriguez said. “Alex Rodriguez, my shortstop, Michael Rodriguez, my nephew, they have 350 to 400 at bats with me already. So do all of my seniors. When they were in ninth grade, they weren’t all ready to play varsity but the situation called for them to play at a young age. Now, we’re going to compete.”

Regarding last season, Rodriguez says the Patriots’ 5-14 record didn’t reflect the brand of baseball he saw the team play whatsoever. Instead, what Rodriguez saw was a team ready to turn the corner. He pushed his guys hard during the fall and in practice this year to get it to all come together before he waves goodbye to them as they begin their college careers at the end of the year.

“We had a tough season last year but there were about ten games where we had the lead and lost,” Coach Rodriguez said. “We were in a lot of games; just the overall record was bad. They understand now because I’ve been teaching them since they were young that this is the year. All the practicing we’ve done during the fall and now; it all has to come together.”

As for saying goodbye to a team that has been with him for so long, Rodriguez admits that, although he has been coaching for upwards of 20 years, it will not be easy.

“This is my twenty-fifth year coaching high schoolers,” Coach Rodriguez said. “As you get older, you get a little attached to the guys. In that regard, this is going be a tough year because this is the most players I’ve ever had graduate in one year.”

Chris Beech drives a pitch back up the middle.

Outfielder Chris Beech echoes his Manager’s sentiments about 2015 being an emotional season, but he also says that it will take more than a cap and gown to keep him away from Patriots Field. Although he will graduate after the year, Beech plans to remain dedicated to Rodriguez and Patriots baseball after his high school career is over.

“I’m most definitely going to try to push harder because this is my last season,” said Beech. “After this, I plan to play college ball but I also plan to come back here and show the younger guys a thing or two about baseball.”

Having alumni return to aide him with the future of Patriots baseball is nothing new to Coach Rodriguez. One of many guys who followed that path is Marlon Rodriguez. After graduating in 2006, Marlin came back to Miramar to coach the school’s JV squad and serve as an assistant to the varsity team. He has been around the team ever since and he has watched the current squad since they started.

“This is a very very low failure group. They’ve put it together little by little,” Rodriguez said. “They’re just out here playing ball and learning the game the right way. That’s the most important part: learning the game and playing the right way.”

In addition to how loyal the current team is to their skipper and how dedicated to him they plan on continue being after high school, it is evident in the way they speak to, listen to, and address Rodriguez. Their relationship with him goes well beyond high school baseball Manager and high school baseball player.

“He’s like a father to me,” Beech said. “Every time I have some problems at home, because my father is not there, I’ve been able to go to him. He’s taught me some life-long lessons.”

Rather than defense and offense, hits and outs, wins and losses, or anything else that happens on the field, Coach Rodriguez believes being there for his kids as they grow up to be a crucial part of his job.

“If it was all about wins and losses, I would’ve left a long time ago,” Rodriguez said. “The personal battles they have, the challenges we all have growing up; sometimes they need a father figure or uncle there to talk about it with. That’s the guy I want to be: that guy that didn’t let them get away with anything, but was there for them to try to teach them what needs to be done.”

In addition to what he has done with them on the field, Marlon Rodriguez lauds the work Coach Rodriguez has done with this team over the years concerning matters off the field.

“It’s not all about winning all the time, it’s not all about baseball all the time,” Marlon Rodriguez said. “It’s about making these young guys into men, into better men in life. That’s something they stress here big time. Not everyone is going to make it to the Major Leagues or make it to Division I baseball, but as long as he makes them into better men, he feels that he has done his job.”

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