Jake Rodriguez: He helped send Oregon State to the College World Series a year after his dad's death.

Hometown Report: Elk Grove grad feels dad's presence on his way to Omaha

Published: Saturday, Jun. 15, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jun. 18, 2013 - 8:48 am

A grin and a glove.

This defined Jake Rodriguez's early years growing up in Chicago, a mile from his playground at Wrigley Field.

Rodriguez and his father, Tony, regularly made the trek to watch their beloved Cubs, the kid packing a backpack filled with makeshift bases, balls and a glove for a pickup game in the parking lot.

After a move to California, Rodriguez was a four-year star player on Elk Grove High School's varsity baseball team, with his proud pop always nearby. Away from the field, father and son were as inseparable as a catcher and his gear. They planned to navigate this baseball journey together: through Oregon State, into the minor leagues, eventually landing in the big leagues.

Now a junior catcher at Oregon State and a draft pick of the Houston Astros, Rodriguez continues that path, though his father is with him now in spirit only. Monday marked the one-year anniversary of Tony Rodriguez's death at 43.

It was also the day Jake Rodriguez's tag at the plate prevented the tying run from scoring in the eighth inning of a 4-3 victory over Kansas State that helped the Beavers secure the Super Regional in Corvallis, Ore., and a trip to the College World Series that starts today in Omaha, Neb. Rodriguez celebrated in the infield, and then he broke down.

Rodriguez said he'll think of his dad today when the Beavers (50-11) take on Mississippi State (48-18) in a noon opener.

Sunday will bring mixed emotions. It's Father's Day.

Rodriguez said June 10, 2012, was "the worst day of my life, losing my dad." He added that June 10, 2013, will forever offer a better anniversary for his role in extending "a dream season on a dream night."

"I can't say enough about my teammates and how much they helped me heal," Rodriguez said after the game. "My dad was my best friend."

Rodriguez cherishes his last meeting with his father, who was hospitalized with a blood clot. They shared stories and peered ahead.

Tony assured his son he was going to be fine, that he expected to be discharged the next day. He urged Rodriguez to return to Corvallis because it was finals week. So the son left. Two hours into his trip up Interstate 5, Rodriguez received a call that his father had died.

"He's with me, and I know he'd want me to continue the journey," Rodriguez said.

DeMello dejection

Toby DeMello is experiencing the business of baseball, euphoric and otherwise. The catcher from Roseville High and Saint Mary's College was in extended spring training this week, preparing for extended short-season play, when he was pulled aside during practice.

DeMello was informed that he was to join the Seattle Mariners' Triple-A affiliate Tacoma, which is playing the River Cats at Raley Field in a four-game set this weekend.

But DeMello never made it. He was optioned back down Thursday, headed to Pulaski, Va., of the rookie Appalachian League. The Mariners are sticking with the surplus of catchers already in the system, according to DeMello's father and Roseville coach, Hank DeMello.

Family and friends purchased some 100 tickets for the River Cats series and still plan to go.

Big Red

Jesuit's 2009 championship team was a special group, and that fact was backed up last week with four former Marauders being selected in the baseball draft.

In the 13th round, infielder Danny Hayes of Oregon State went to the White Sox, outfielder Jimmy Bosco of Menlo College to the Cardinals and outfielder Justin Higley of Sacramento State to the A's.

Pitcher Dan Child of Oregon State went in Round 18 to the Phillies.

Around the region

• Nevada reached out to Sac State baseball coach Reggie Christiansen about its vacancy. But Christiansen is staying put. With a host of local recruits on board, he is targeting a deep postseason run next spring.

• Davis High incoming senior C.K. Hicks, a wide receiver gaining college recruiting interest, suffered a torn ACL on Friday at a UCLA camp. Hicks' father, former Davis and Cal star Marc Hicks, said, "My heart is broken for my son."

• Nate Iese of UCLA, by way of Sheldon, moved from linebacker to slot receiver after dominating sessions of spring ball. Iese has excellent hands and speed, and at 6-foot-5, 245 pounds, he has the size to withstand the contact he craves.

Follow on Joe Davidson @SacBee_JoeD and listen to his "Extra Point" every Wednesday on ESPN1320.net

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