A long journey climaxed in incredible fashion for 26-year-old career minor league catcher Eddy Rodriguez on Thursday when he homered in his first major league at-bat.
As recently as Monday, Rodriguez, who came to this country from Cuba on a raft when he was 8 and spent six years in the minor leagues, was hitting .223 for Class A Lake Elsinore.
Then Rodriguez got called up to the San Diego Padres on Tuesday when rookie catcher Yasmani Grandal went on the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle.
He homered Thursday off the Cicinnati Reds' Johnny Cueto in the Padres' 9-4 loss.
"It was all worth it," Rodriguez said Thursday afternoon in the visiting clubhouse at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati after completing his first major league game for the Padres. As he spoke, the tears welled up above the smile. He couldn't hold back the emotions.
"I can't believe it, still," he said. "Six years to get here, and I homer in my first at-bat. I can't explain what went through my mind when that happened. Incredible. I blacked out when I was going around the bases. I remembered all the hard work, my mom ... I'm sending that ball in a special package to my mom. I'm very blessed to be here.
Rodriguez recently recounted the voyage his family (dad, mother, sister and cousin) made on a raft.
"It took us three days to reach Florida from Cuba. The weather was terrible ... so bad that the 'Brothers To The Rescue' organization wouldn't launch their boats in Florida to come for us. We kept sailing through squalls and storms. We almost died three times."
As a baseball player, Rodriguez was released by the Reds at the age of 22. He spent two years trying to re-launch his career in the independent leagues before the Padres gave him a second chance in 2011.
He became only the second Padre to homer in his first major league at-bat. The first was pitcher Dave Eiland on April 10, 1992.
--Rodriguez became the 10th Padre to have a homer as his first major league hit. The last three -- Luis Martinez (last season), Grandal on June 30 and Rodriguez -- all have common backgrounds. All three are catchers who were raised in the Miami area.
--To take it a bit further with Grandal and Rodriguez, both are catchers whose families brought them to Miami from Cuba as youths. Both eventually caught for the University of Miami. Both began their pro careers in the Cincinnati organization.
--And Rodriguez's homer came off Cueto -- a 416-foot shot on a 1-and-2 pitch. Cueto and Rodriguez were teammates years ago as both launched their pro careers in the Reds' farm system.