Pasco-Hernando State College pitcher Danny Rodriguez now has the most wins in school history after pitching PHSC’s first no-hitter last year.
The pitcher is excited to talk about some big accomplishments.
“It was the best thing I’ve ever experienced in baseball,” Rodriguez said.
But he’s not describing his personal accomplishments, such as the no-hitter or setting the school wins record. He’s talking about a team accomplishment: The school’s trip to the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II World Series last year, where they finished fourth in the nation.
Rodriguez is known as a team player, so that’s his focus.
But when asked about his own personal records, he’s more subdued.
“It’s nice. It doesn’t concern me as much as winning regionals and getting to the World Series,” he said.
While setting the record isn’t that big of a deal to Rodriguez, the Conquistadors have used those victories to full advantage, reaching a spot in last year’s World Series during his 10-win season. His current 8-2 record also has helped the team to qualify for their regional tournament next month.
Steve Winterling, who coaches Rodriguez, said the pitcher doesn’t rely on just one kind of pitch to get out of tough situations.
“Anybody can throw a fastball, but you’ve got to have the other pitches,” Winterling said. “He has those, and he throws them with confidence.”
That confidence didn’t come from his senior season in high school. He was a middle infielder and had just one pitching start, with 10 innings of work, in his final year at Steinbrenner High School. Though he had pitched more the year before, and got in more work with his travel ball team, Rodriguez never took pitching lessons. Instead, he would teach himself pitches, going over them until they felt right. He learned his curveball when he was young and added the slider in high school. He just got his change-up working last year.
That steady progress has made him a versatile weapon for Winterling, and one he used in different situations last year.
He became a regular starter about halfway through that season, yet still racked up 10 victories and developed a reputation for being calm and collected on the mound.
“I never really stress about the outcome. I just try to do my thing each pitch and with each batter,” Rodriguez said.
While he’s serene on the baseball field, he admits that’s not always the case when he’s off it.
He’s more of an animated guy, and lets his enthusiasm show.
On the pitching mound, though, he displays a calm presence, and doesn’t let the pressure of a tough situation rattle him.
“I like being in control and taking the pressure,” he said.
Other schools are taking notice of his control as well.
Rodriguez will have plenty of opportunities to continue his collegiate baseball career, and is already fielding offers from schools both in and out of Florida. He hasn’t made a decision yet, but said that the University of West Florida in Pensacola is a front-runner.
Beyond, there’s the possibility of a professional career.
If Rodriguez keeps the momentum going through his senior season, his numbers will be tough for scouts to ignore, Winterling said. It wouldn’t be much of a risk for a team to take a chance on a proven winner.
“The guy throws strikes and gets outs. What more can you ask for?” Winterling said.
Rodriguez said he’d try his hand at professional baseball “in a heartbeat,” but he’s not counting on that career path.
He’s studying business, and wants to make sure he has a useful degree to continue his winning ways, even if it’s not with a baseball in his hand.
For now, Rodriguez is focused on finishing the season strong and winning the regional tournament to take another crack at World Series play.
The team has fixed some of its weaknesses from last year and should be able to compete in the postseason, he said.
“As a team, we have more pitching, and defensively we’re better,” he said. “That’s really the two that we needed.”
While the coach also puts team goals over individual ones, he’s glad to see the school’s win record go to a deserving player like Rodriguez.
“He’s a team guy,” Winterling said. “You can’t ask for a better person to be a rep (for the team) on the baseball field.”
Published April 15, 2015