Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Minor Leaguer Who Didn't Quit

Guilder Rodriguez, a 31-year-old baseball player, is in the record books. But as far as records go, it’s not really one that most baseball players would aspire to.

14,095 plate appearances. 1,095 games. 13 years. That’s how long Guilder Rodriguez waited to fulfill his lifelong dream of playing in the major leagues. No one has ever played as many games in the minor leagues without an appearance in the majors as him.

Over those 13 long years, Rodriguez probably saw dozens if not hundreds of teammates get called up to the majors, getting their chance to live out the dream that every ballplayer dreams of since they were old enough to hold a baseball.

Rodriguez also saw many, many more of his teammates hang up their gloves and walk away from the game altogether without ever making it to “The Show.”

I wonder how many times Rodriguez stayed up late at night thinking about quitting, asking himself if the long bus rides to small towns, the low pay and playing in front of small crowds was worth it.

There must have been moments when frustration rose to the surface. When sadness crept in and doubt engulfed him. No one would have blamed him for quitting somewhere along the way. Thirteen years of toiling around in the farm system is an eternity in baseball years.

But if he had quit, he never would have gotten to experience what happened this week.

In early September, the Texas Rangers called him up and he made his MLB debut on Sept. 9. Reports say he cried for a long time after getting the news. After 13 years and 1,095 games and walking into a minor league ballpark batter’s box 14,095 times, he was finally getting his chance.

And then on Monday, he got his first major league hit. The crowd gave him a standing ovation, his family watching in the stands crying tears of joy. And then later in the same game, he hit another one -- an RBI single that ended up being the game-winner, lifting the Rangers to a 4-3 win. His teammates rewarded him with a celebratory ice-cold Gatorade dump after the game.

But the really amazing thing about Rodriguez is not only that he persevered through 13 years in the minors to realize his dream of being a Major Leaguer, but what kind of player he was during those years.

According to Adam J. Morris of Lone Star Ball: “He's been credited with having a huge influence on the careers of guys like Martin Perez and Rougned Odor, and being an 80 character guy who is the type of person you want in your organization.”

Rangers interim manager Tim Bogar told's T.R. Sullivan: “He's just a true professional. He is basically a player-coach … He has been a big brother to Rougned and [Luis] Sardinas their whole careers. We see him in the clubhouse perking them up and having influence to get them to do the right thing.”

While he was waiting for his turn, he wasn’t just concerned with himself and his own dream. He was also building up those around him.

Now, he gets to play in the majors for three weeks as the regular season winds down. He might get to stay in the majors beyond that. He might not. But either way, I guarantee that these three weeks will be a time that Rodriguez cherishes forever -- a dream come true that he gets to enjoy with teammates he helped along the way.

Stories like this are reminders that most dreams take time -- a lot of it. They don’t happen all at once, so we need to develop patience and perseverance for the long road ahead. But they also remind me that I’m not the only one dreaming -- and there are people around me that I could be encouraging, investing in and guiding as I pursue my own dreams. 

If you are wondering whether or not to give up on your dream, keep going. It might take one year. Or 13 years. Maybe longer. Stick with it. But more importantly, don’t forget to look around and build up those that are around. Help someone else realize their own dreams while you chase yours. 

You just might get your turn someday, too. But you'll never get there if you quit along the way. 

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