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Diploma won’t bring end to Rodriguez' run
Written by: Joel Priest
The antelope is known as the second-fastest land animal on Earth.
And though the Runnin’ Lopes of Lamar (Colo.) Community College don’t approach their mascot’s 70-mph short-distance bursts or 40-mph sustained gallops, they were more than happy to snap up a true cheetah of the Intermountain League.
Who recently decided his already-stuffed senior year wasn’t quite fulfilling enough.
Signed to play baseball at LCC next season (made official on February 24), Ignacio’s Derek Rodriguez will compete in this weekend’s 3A Track and Field Championships in Pueblo after winning the regional crown last weekend in the long jump—in only his second competition.
“The first time I did it, I scratched all three times,Rodriguez laughed Tuesday evening. “That was in the snow and wind there in Bayfield [May 5], and I knew I couldn’t do that anymore. And when I won last weekend, it just felt great to know I’m going to state somehow.”
But his winning leap of 21 feet, 4.5 inches still didn’t block out the knowledge that the state baseball championship—where he’d hoped the Bobcats would be still competing this point in May—will be decided tomorrow just over a mile away from Dutch Clark Stadium.
“Coach Herrera, our track coach, had been asking me to come out all season anyways, so after baseball I figured ‘Why not?’” said Rodriguez. “But I think if we’d had all our seniors stay with baseball we’d have done a lot better than we did [4-13 overall].”
In candid conversation Tuesday evening, Rodriguez also noted that his own performances—athletically or otherwise—also left him pondering the what-if’s of a year that saw him star in four sports as one of IHS’ most visible students.
“I think I could have done even better,” he admitted. “There were times where either I didn’t give a hundred percent, or my grades weren’t a hundred percent, and it really hurt what I was trying to do. But going to state in track—with a lot of our team—it’s still going to be good.”
What’s also good is the LCC baseball program of which Rodriguez, son of Maurice Rodriguez and Yolanda Duran, will join this fall in preparations for 2008. Under head coach Scott Crampton—winner of nearly 600 games since taking over in 1994—the Lopes (31-23 in 2007, 43-15 in 2006) hosted a seventh straight NJCAA Region IX tournament last weekend at Merchants’ Park after winning the Empire Conference for the seventh consecutive season.
Although they were upset by Northeastern Junior College (Sterling) and eliminated by eventual champs Western Nebraska CC (Scottsbluff, Neb.), Lamar has been consistently ranked among the Top 15, in no small part due to a 212-26 regular-season conference record during their current reign. Current major league pitchers Doug Brocail (San Diego Padres) and Brandon McCarthy (Chicago White Sox) both claim LCC backgrounds, as do numerous minor leaguers and four-year college ballplayers.
“I love baseball,” Rodriguez said.
“When I was young, I got put in a tee-ball league. And [2007 IHS graduate and teammate] Scott Hill was on my team then, and I accidentally broke his arm swinging a bat! Kind of funny now, but I just love playing.”
Ready to walk across the stage tomorrow at IHS’ commencement ceremony, Rodriguez says though baseball can take him out of Ignacio, it will never take Ignacio out of him.
“That town’s put up with me for 18 years,” he laughed, “and I’ll be up there just remembering all my family, the school staff, teammates, coaches, and everyone that’s been positive to me this whole time, hoping I can start giving something back now.”
“I’m looking at studying athletic training in college, and thinking about becoming a chiropractor one day. But you never know,” he continued with an inherent D-Rod grin, “I might change to something else, now that I’ll be a freshman again.”
He’s ready for them, but southeastern Colorado might not be ready for him…
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