Looking back at my conversation with Julio Rodríguez
It has been exactly a year since I sat down to talk with Julio Rodríguez, so I did some reflecting over what has changed in the past year for the 22 year old superstar.
A year ago today I sat down and talked with Julio Rodríguez. Before the debut, before the derby, before the drought ended, and before the stardom. So much has changed since that moment, but one thing really hasn’t. He is still Julio.
As I settled in to talk with Julio that day I’m not going to lie, I was nervous. I feel pretty comfortable talking to baseball players, coaches, and personnel at this point, but this kid had a special feeling about him.
As we began the interview his natural calmness and confidence in himself became apparent, oozing through the phone with every word he spoke.
He made me feel confident, this was just a conversation about a game we both love.
My first question crazily enough was about the transition to center field and how that was going for him. Over the past year, we have seen a superstar major league centerfielder, but it is hard to remember that it didn’t always appear that way.
Few scouts, if any, thought Julio could play center field. The one person that mattered thought he could. Julio Rodríguez.
“It’s really easy to play. It’s a really good position, one that I like to play.”
Okay, simple enough.
He goes on to say how thankful he is for Franklin Gutiérrez, Mike Cameron, and Ichiro in camp and all they have done to help him with his outfield play, to become a true centerfielder.
The conversation flowed towards his new brand in partnership with Blue Chip, and what kind of hoodie I should get. This partnership was just the beginning of the endless amounts of endorsements and brand deals he will receive, especially as a player who has fully cemented himself in the “Face of Baseball” discussion.
Since our chat, the 22 year old superstar has joined forces with EA Sports to be a cover athlete, and with Adidas with a shoe deal. There may or may not be a big announcement coming soon in that department for Julio, so stay tuned.
The star centerfielder struggled in April but took hold of the spot at the top of the order in May, never letting it go. After posting a batting average below the Mendoza line early on, Rodríguez exploded, posting a 146 WRC+ for the season at just 21 years old.
He put on a show at the home run derby at Dodger Stadium and spearheaded the Seattle Mariners snapping the longest playoff drought in major professional sports.
Now a year older and wiser, the 22 year old is also a lot richer. In August he signed a 12 year contract extension that could turn into 17 years and over 400 million dollars.
Even with the fame, the contract, and the endorsements Rodríguez has stayed a steady and fun-loving presence. He is already the face of Seattle sports and isn’t too far off of being the face of our sport.
Julio Rodríguez loves Seattle too, as was on display in his article in the Players Tribune on Wednesday morning. He loves Seattle and more importantly, he loves the game of baseball.
On Thursday night he will take the field in front of a jam-packed T-Mobile Park, ready to lead the Mariners toward a new goal, the World Series.
Through all the change and development over the last year, one thing has been steady. Julio Rodríguez is still the same kid the Mariners signed out of Lomo de Cabrera in 2017, and it is going to stay that way.