RICHMOND, Ky. – Eastern Kentucky University senior shortstop Richie Rodriguez was drafted by the New York Mets on Tuesday in the ninth round and as the 290th overall pick of the 2012 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. Rodriguez was the first Ohio Valley Conference player taken off the board in this year’s draft.
“Richie certainly deserves to play at the next level because of his character, superior work ethic and competitive attitude.” EKU head coach Jason Stein said. “He will leave EKU as, arguably, one of the best players in program history.”
Rodriguez is the 10th EKU baseball player to be drafted since 2002 and the first since Jayson Langfels was taken in the 16th round by the Colorado Rockies in 2010. He is also the highest EKU draft pick since Christian Friedrich was selected by the Rockies in the first round of the 2008 draft.
“My mom started screaming when they announced my name, so I didn’t even get to hear what the analysts said about me,” Rodriguez said. “But, it was a great feeling. Playing pro ball has always been a dream of mine.”
Rodriguez started 216 consecutive games at shortstop for EKU, meaning every game of his decorated career. The native of Miami, Fla. recently concluded that decorated career by leading EKU to a share of its first OVC regular season title and being named a first team All-OVC selection, a Louisville Slugger third team All-American and a semifinalist for the prestigious Brooks Wallace Shortstop of the Year Award.
The durable leadoff man, who tied a school record with three home runs in a game against Indiana State on March 4 and hit for the cycle in a game against UT Martin on May 5, batted .377 this season and led the Colonels in almost every major offensive category, including home runs (14), runs (59), hits (80), doubles (18), total bases (146), walks (33), slugging percentage (.689) and on-base percentage (.469). He also ranked in the top-30 in the country in slugging percentage, total bases, home runs, runs scored, runs per game (1.09) and home runs per game (0.26) and was the catalyst of an explosive EKU offense that that led the country in home runs per game (1.25) and the OVC in slugging percentage (.477), home runs (66), doubles (122) and triples (21).
In nearly 1,000 career plate appearances, Rodriguez struck out only 64 times.
Rodriguez was also one half of a slick-fielding Colonel middle infield that ranked sixth in the country during the regular season with 1.11 doubles plays turned per game.
He might be turning double plays from the other side of second base in the coming years, however, as the Mets project the 5-10, 180-pound Rodriguez as a second baseman.
“I feel like playing second base is very similar to shortstop, only an easier throw to make,” Rodriguez said. “Coach Stein let me take reps at second base during practice throughout my time at EKU, so I’m ready for the transition.”
Rodriguez will leave EKU as the school’s all-time leader in hits (303), runs (209) and at-bats (852).
“When I got to EKU, my next goal was to play pro ball,” Rodriguez said. “With the help of Coach Stein and the strength coaches, I was able to get stronger over the years and more consistent at making strong throws across the infield. All those practices, all that lifting … it finally paid off. I’m so happy.”