Paul Kitagaki Jr. pkitagaki@sacbee.com Derek Rodigo has numbers that make him a leader on the field (.452 batting average) and in the classroom (4.1 GPA).

Del Campo senior Rodigo leads baseball Cougars with talent, smarts

Published: Monday, May. 27, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Wednesday, May. 29, 2013 - 8:58 am

Derek Rodigo has intangibles not measured by statistical data.

The Del Campo High School senior infielder is an example of achievement in uniform and in class, revered for his words, actions and results.

Rodigo leads the Cougars into action one final time tonight as his season and a childhood journey for a group of Cougars comes to a close. Del Campo plays Benicia for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship at Sacramento City College, and Rodigo will pour every ounce into it.

"He's amazing," Del Campo coach Paul Martinez said, sizing up Rodigo in general. "He's 25 years old mentally. He passed all the teenage (stuff) at 12. He's all business, all dialed in."

Martinez said Rodigo's best trait is his ability to inspire his teammates and relay a message of pride and accountability.

"Derek's a great buffer between the coaching staff and the team," Martinez said. "You're on the border of being a hard (guy) and a leader. That's a fine line to walk, and you have to be respected. He is. He gets what he wants."

Rodigo has indeed maximized his final year. He quarterbacked the football team to a Capital Valley Conference championship, and he's played a paramount role in one of Del Campo's finest baseball seasons, which is saying something, considering the Cougars have been a regional power since the 1960s.

All this while maintaining perfect grades, and then some. Rodigo's 4.1 GPA placed him in the top 25 of his graduating class of 465. He is headed to Westmont College in Santa Barbara to study kinesiology or perhaps pre-med, and to play baseball. Rodigo said he embraced the leadership role this spring, a highlight in a year full of them.

"It's great to have people who want to listen to me, my teammates and friends," he said. "I have some experiences to offer – football, baseball and academics. It comes from my parents, who raised me the right way, with morals and character. I have a leadership personality, and people tend to follow me."

Rodigo said he cringes at the idea of lazy students who don't apply themselves. He has offered suggestions to scores of Del Campo students on how to better plan and execute homework and testing.

"He's a great leader by example," said senior Jared Biggs, another straight-A student. "It's mostly his work ethic, in everything. Derek works hard nonstop."

Rodigo and Biggs are among a host of Del Campo seniors whose baseball journey began when they were 5. Rodigo and teammate Michael Hatfield met playing soccer when they were 3. Rodigo has competed in Little League with Tyler Fuchs and Adrian Rocha, among others, since they were 7.

"We're a close-knit group," Rodigo said.

Close enough that when the baseball seniors and an army of classmates took six buses to Disneyland for a post-graduation trip last week, they offered a pact.

"Our motto was to be smart," Rodigo said. "Enjoy the time, take care of each other, but be smart. We've worked too hard to throw it away by being stupid. The risk is not worth the reward."

Rodigo and his teammates agreed the roller-coaster rides and fistfuls of cotton candy provided a timely getaway. The seniors could feel the wear of a long season. They normally head out locally with some form of Del Campo gear on. They wore none of it in Disneyland. They were graduated seniors for those two days, not ballplayers.

Now, that changes.

"We're focused again," Rodigo said.

Rodigo is batting .452, Biggs .449, Tim Hall .400, Hatfield .356, and Tyler Swank .304. Hall and Swank also are seniors. Swank took ace Sam Long under his wing after Long transferred from Rosemont. Long, another fine student, is 6-0, including a 14-strikeout gem to beat Bethel 3-2 in a playoff game. A junior, Long may graduate in December and head off to his scholarship destination of Sacramento State.

"Sam's a stud," Rodigo said. "I met him the first day of school, then we became close when baseball started. We've become the two leaders of the team. We had that connection. There's a lot of trust."

Graduation, Disneyland, a championship baseball game.

"It doesn't get any better than this," Biggs said.

Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs

CHAMPIONSHIPS

At Sacramento City College

DIVISION I

North champion: Elk Grove

South champion: St. Mary's-Stockton

FINALS

(Best-of-three series)

Elk Grove vs. St. Mary's-Stockton

Game 1: Friday, 7 p.m.

Game 2: Saturday, noon

Game 3: Saturday (if necessary, TBA)

TODAY

DIVISION II

Del Campo vs. Benicia, 6 p.m.

DIVISION III

Colfax vs. Yuba City, 3 p.m.

DIVISION VII

Brookside Christian-Stockton vs. Valley Christian, noon

20080730 SDJ>At Tony Zupo Field, Lodi

DIVISION IV

Central Catholic-Modesto vs. Oakdale, 6 p.m.

DIVISION V

Capital Christian vs. Escalon, 3 p.m.

DIVISION VI

Bradshaw Christian vs. Mariposa, noon

Follow on Twitter: @SacBee_JoeD and on podcast: ESPN1320.net

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