Freshman Pitcher Takes Team to Playoffs

Kristine Tuzon, Staff Writer

Freshman pitcher Angel Rodriguez is known for his breaking ball, which dips and dives over the plate, but he overcame some curve balls of his own before becoming an accomplished GCC baseball player.

Rodriguez started playing baseball at 10, coached and trained by his eldest brother Robert Rodriguez.

“He [Robert Rodriguez] told me you’re going to bleed, you’re going to cry, you’re going to throw up. I’m going to make you do all these things to make you quit. If you don’t quit, I know you’re going to be good,” Angel Rodriguez said.

In high school, the pitcher played for Francis Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley his freshman season, started in junior varsity and advanced to varsity halfway through the season. During his sophomore year, he moved to Woodland Hills and transferred to Chatsworth High School and started from the beginning.

“My brother told me, ‘This is where you’re going to learn most out of yourself,’” Angel Rodriguez said. “Being in one place, getting comfortable, and changing and adapting and that’s one thing I’m thankful for.”

Much like in high school, Rodriguez had to transition yet again between colleges.

After Chatsworth, Rodriguez attended Cal State Northridge and played for its Division I baseball team. Due to academic reasons and lack of focus, the NCAA did not approve one of his online classes and the first year pitcher became ineligible to play for its team.

The freshman pitcher decided to attend a junior college to regroup and improve academically and physically.

“Going to Glendale has yet been the greatest decision that I have made,” Angel Rodriguez said. “I only plan to go up and move forward from here.”

His improvement and focus has been paying off in wins.

Rodriguez was the Vaqueros’ strongest pitcher this season, leading the conference with 8 wins and 57 strikeouts. He also boasted a 2.26 ERA, second to his teammate Tei Vanderford.

Rodriguez said he practices every day, preparing physically as well as mentally. “I focus on if a hitter stands this way, I can throw this pitch I can throw that pitch. Just putting myself ahead of my opponents really helps me get up front against my opponent.”

Chris Cicuto, baseball head coach, said Rodriguez’s best attribute is his consistency.

“He’s consistent in his practice, ethics, his work ethics and obviously his competitiveness is far better than most pitchers out in the Western State Conference,” Cicuto said.

Fellow teammates catcher Chris Whitmer and middle infielder Sergio Plasencia have been Rodriguez’s mentors throughout the season.

“Angel has grown a lot, I believe,” Plasencia said. “From what he came in as a Division I from CSUN, he’s shown that he could play at that level and done really well with it.”

“He’s an easygoing guy. Off the field, he’s a jokester. He fools around all the time,” Whitmer said. “But once he steps on the field as a teammate, he does all he can to win. You know when he steps on the mound he’ll get it done.”

Although the Vaqueros will not continue to the state playoffs after its lost Saturday to El Camino College during the Super Regional game, Rodriguez said he is grateful for his experience this season.

“I didn’t think this season was going to go by so fast,” said Rodriguez. “I’m definitely going to miss it, but knowing I’m going to come back next year makes it that much better.”