The sound was all you needed. Sean Rodriguez had just barreled up a pitch, and the “crack” vibrated through the field microphone at PNC Park. The ball was on its way to the left-field bleachers. Gone. Walkoff.
That’s the baseball part.
The human part was just as jolting. That crack sounded an awful lot like a punctuation mark to a six-month saga.
Rodriguez initially wasn’t expected play baseball this year, let alone win a game in extra innings for the Pirates, after he, his wife and two of his children were injured in a January auto accident. But there he was Sunday, about three weeks after coming off the disabled list and about 24 hours after being reunited with the club in a waiver trade with the Braves. He got two at-bats in his return — one in the ninth inning, one in the 12th.
The at-bat in the 12th will be replayed in the Steel City for a long time.
Before the game, Rodriguez acknowledged the support Pittsburgh fans gave him as he rehabbed his banged-up shoulder. During the game, he received an ovation as he entered the lineup in a double-switch. After the game, he returned the favor.
“Look at this passion. I mean, I’m not an all-star, my career numbers aren’t the best. I came out here in the game and the crowd was unbelievable, just showing me love,” he told AT&T SportsNet in the postgame interview.
That’s why he prefaced that statement with a simple “I love it here in Pittsburgh.”
And now he has a chance to stay in Pittsburgh through next year. The Braves signed him to a two-year contract as a free agent last offseason. After the injury, and after the emergence of young infielders Johan Camargo and Ozzie Albies in Atlanta, Rodriguez was expendable. The Pirates, who don’t know if Jung Ho Kang will return in 2018, can use Rodriguez to, at minimum, fill the utility role in which he excelled the past two seasons.
If he gets to do that, then he can view the past six months in much different, much more positive, way. He can look at them as the time it took to get him back to a place he loves.
This article has been updated to correct the name of AT&T SportsNet.