Baseball is a sport of camaraderie. Learning to work together and support your teammates can take a team a long way.
For two Little Leaguers®, their friendship has led them an extraordinarily long way.
Eric Rodriguez and John López are the battery for Radames López Little League from Guayama, Puerto Rico. Together, the duo has emerged as the leaders of Caribbean Region Champions at the 2018 Little League Baseball® World Series.
“They are like coaches in the field,” said team Manager Carlos Texidor, “They are always a step ahead, and that makes my job a lot easier.”
Rodriguez is the ace pitcher for the Caribbean team, and features good velocity and a crafty breaking ball. He pitched 5 1/3 no-hit innings in Puerto Rico’s nine-inning loss to the Asia-Pacific Region Champions South Seoul Little League of South Korea on Thursday. He also recorded an RBI single.
López is the team’s star catcher. He has a strong arm and is the in-game manager. In Game 1 of this year’s Tournament in Williamsport, he recorded a hit and showed tremendous ability behind the plate, highlighted by two game-saving plays in extra-innings.
Beyond being one of the most dynamic batteries in this year’s World Series, Rodriguez and López are also quite a tandem off the field. The duo are best friends, and use their bond to bring the entire team together.
“We have been playing together since we were seven years old,” said López. “We use our friendship before the games. We’re always talking about what we’re going to do and what’s the game plan. That relationship we have had for a long time is helping us on the field.”
In addition to their big arms, Eric and John also have big hearts. John shakes the hand of the opposing catcher every time he steps in the batter’s box. It’s his way of showing respect to his rivals.
“I’m playing against them, but I want to make a friendship with the other team” he said.
Traveling the road to Williamsport is a special experience for any Little Leaguer, but for the children from Puerto Rico, their journey is even more special in the wake of the Hurricane that affected Guayama and the surrounding communities.
“Our first goal in Puerto Rico was to give our kids some recreation and a distraction from what was going on there,” said Coach Texidor.
“It was tough to be a team when we had no fields to practice on,” he continued. “At that point we also had no lights. But god gave them the opportunity and inspiration to play, and they used that to get here.”
Despite everything surrounding them during the Hurricane, Rodriguez and López mentioned that they have been focusing on getting to Williamsport for years. Ever since they won their region tournament at nine years old, they knew they has a shot to make it here.
“We were focused, and we all had the same goal: to make it to Williamsport,” said Rodriguez. “We got to work, and used the Hurricane as motivation, to show us that we can overcome anything.”
Rodriguez and López have been instrumental to their team throughout their journey to the Little League World Series. Knowing the team has the support of Puerto Rico, this talented young team is giving a recovering nation something to be excited about.