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The Salt Lake Tribune

Sophomore Sensation Leading Taylorsville's Attack

Andrew Aragon

28 April 2005
Copyright © 2005 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved.

More than an hour after Taylorsville defeated Granger in a Region 3 baseball game Tuesday, Warriors shortstop Christian Rodriguez was back in the infield, taking ground balls.

The error he committed against the Lancers was killing him.

So Rodriguez was among the 15 players, mostly underclassmen -- except for seniors Preston Grimes and Bret Kone -- taking batting practice and getting in extra infield work. Perhaps that's why Rodriguez's teammates have welcomed the move-in into the state's top baseball program with few complaints.

Rodriguez is a 15-year-old sophomore who leads the Warriors in batting average (.470) on-base percentage (.645) and stolen bases. What in the name of Chad Barben is going on here?

"You just don't come in here as a sophomore and start," Taylorsville coach Guy Mackay said. "You just got to watch him a couple times and you'll see why he does."

Playing at tradition-rich and usually senior-heavy Taylorsville as a sophomore is a rare feat. Barben, who graduated in 2003 and won the Class 5-A MVP award in 2002, was one of few players in the school's history to regularly start as a sophomore. Brandon Lyon, who played for the Warriors and is now the closer for the Arizona Diamondbacks, got little playing time during his sophomore year.

Here's Rodriguez -- not just in the team's starting lineup, but starring in it. He was born in Puerto Rico and raised there until his stepfather, Elfrin Colon, got a job transfer to Texas about five years ago. Another job transfer for Elfrin, who works in management at Watson Laboratories, brought the family to Utah.

Rodriguez said it was no accident he ended up at Taylorsville after he learned his family was moving to Utah.

"When I was moving here, people from Texas were saying the best baseball school in Utah is Taylorsville and I said, 'I'm going there then,'" Rodriguez said.

Mackay heard rumors early last summer that a young talent was heading to Taylorsville from Texas. Rodriguez arrived before the school year started.

But at first, Mackay had reservations about using him in his lineup because he worried about taking a spot away from an older player. He put him in left field for a couple of games during the summer and let him hit.

During the fall baseball season, Rodriguez started making some of the defensive plays he's become known for and that his idols -- Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter -- would be proud of. As Bingham coach Joey Sato told Mackay, "if you hit it anywhere from 10 feet to the right of second base to 10 feet to the left of third base, you're out."

"He just makes play after play after play," said Mackay, who decided after the fall season that it would be in his team's best interests to put Rodriguez in the everyday lineup.

Certainly, the returning Taylorsville players could have held a grudge or resisted having Rodriguez step into the lineup so soon. But the Warriors say Rodriguez is likable and humble. He has fit in easily. Plus, with junior second baseman Taylor North hampered by a shoulder injury, Mackay needed someone to fill a spot in the infield. He put Rodriguez at shortstop and moved Doug Springer to second.

"Everybody has taken to him, and not just because he's a great player," Mackay said. "The other guys see him doing the extra work, so they believe he's earned the right to come in here and be the guy there [at shortstop]. They respect him and he's fit in."

Said Grimes: "We thought it was fair. He's really good. I think he's the best infielder I've seen, high-school wise."


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