As Julio Rodriguez sat in a suite in right field Friday night, he could feel the energy and emotion permeating from a sellout crowd of 44,169 packed into the seats of T-Mobile Park.
It left him thinking about his turn.
One day, probably sometime next season, he would be down on that emerald field, playing in front of a packed stadium of fans and doing everything he can to make them explode in jubilation.
“It was unreal, to be honest,” he said Saturday. “Seeing everyone show up for that game yesterday, it actually made me want to be here even more.”
And when his buddy and former teammate Jarred Kelenic ripped a double to the wall in right field, scoring Abraham Toro in the third inning, the roar from the fans left him awestruck.
“I had to hold myself up there for real,” he said. “It was so electric. I just love how everybody reacted to it.”
Perhaps the only negative thing was that the Mariners lost 2-1. Still, it’s clear it left an unforgettable memory and motivating moment for the organization’s top prospect and the No. 2 prospect in all of baseball.
“That was my first time coming to a Mariners game,” he said. “I feel like it was the best thing I’ve seen in my life. This is what I want. All game, I was imagining what it would be like to be out there. I was literally getting chills thinking about myself playing with these guys in front of 47,000 people.”
There are some fans who are upset that the slugging man-child wasn’t on the roster the last month of the season. Seattle had discussions about calling him up but opted not to because of the minimal roster expansion implemented.
“I didn’t hear anything about it,” he said. “I just tried to do my best and focus on where my feet were at and that was in Double A. I tried to do my best there.”
There’s no question about his talent. And his numbers this season were among the best in baseball.
He split the season between High-A Everett (May 4-June 16) and Class AA Arkansas (June 26-to end of season), posting a combined .347/.441/.560 slash line with 19 doubles, two triples, 13 home runs, 47 RBI, 43 walks and 21 stolen bases in 67 total games. He missed extended periods of this season to help the Dominican Republic win the bronze medal in the Olympics. And that experience might be even more beneficial in his development.
“There was more pressure playing in the Olympics or like the qualifiers because it was do or die,” he said. “… I feel like it was better for me to have my emotions in a tough situation. It’s the Olympics.”
The importance of the accomplishment to his native country left him proudly sporting the bronze medal Saturday afternoon at T-Mobile Park.
“I can’t even put it into words,” he said. “We as a team did something that was never done in the Dominican Republic, so it was the first time ever a team sport won something in the Olympics. I’m to be a part of that history was amazing.”
Rodriguez won’t play winter ball in the Dominican Republic. He will go to the team facility for high performance camp in October and then to a training facility in Tampa. After a break for the holidays, he will return to Tampa for more workouts.
When he returns in February to Arizona, he plans to compete for a spot on the opening day roster.
“I’m gonna go out there and compete, like I do all the time,” he said. “That’s what I do. Even if they say I don’t got a shot, I’m still going to go compete.”
The Mariners made a pair of roster moves before Saturday’s game. One was planned; the other was more of a last-minute need.
Early in the afternoon, infielder Donnie Walton was recalled from Class AAA Tacoma and reliever Wyatt Mills was optioned back to the Rainiers.
“We don’t really need a surplus of bullpen guys at this point in the season,” manager Scott Servais said of the move. “We’ve got a couple more to play and we kind of know who’s going to pitch in these games, and Donnie gives us some added flexibility.”
But a need for a reliever reappeared when veteran right-hander Joe Smith was placed on the injured list with no listed reason, meaning it is COVID-19-related. Seattle activated hard-throwing right-hander Andres Munoz from the 60-day injured list to take Smith’s place on the roster. Munoz was preparing for his final rehab outing with the Rainiers.
Sources said it was a scramble to get Munoz to Seattle from Tacoma. He got the call about an hour-and-a-half before Saturday’s 6:10 p.m. start.