Where are they now? Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez

Benny Rodriguez still has a major role in the game he loves

Benny Rodriguez still has a major role in the game he loves

“Heroes get remembered, but legends never die”. These were the words that Benjamin Rodriguez lived by growing up. A simple yet powerful phrase that constantly reminded him that he could always be better.

Growing up in the San Fernando valley just outside of Los Angeles, Rodriguez didn’t play but lived the game baseball. With a Dodgers cap atop his head Rodriguez spent as much time as he could on the diamond. From sun up to sun down, if you wanted to find Benny just go to the ball field. His longtime friend Scott Smalls described Rodriguez’s obsession in an interview saying “Benny would have played ball day, night, rain, shine, tidal wave, whatever. Baseball was the only thing he cared about”.

After finishing high school as one of the top prospects in the nation, Rodriguez was drafted by his favorite team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, in the second round. It didn’t take long for Rodriguez to impress to Dodgers brass. Tommy Lasorda recalls the first time he saw Rodriguez on the field. “We were playing a inter-squad game in Vero Beach that spring and I remember Rodriguez lacing a single and then preceding to steal second and third. Then I saw the lead he was getting off of third and thought there’s no way he’s crazy enough to steal home. When he swiped home I just looked  at my staff and their mouths were on the floor. After that day I knew we had a star in the making”.

By the age of 20, Rodriguez was hitting leadoff for the Dodgers and leaving his mark on baseball history. When he was 22, Rodriguez earned his nickname, Benny the Jet, by setting the Major League record for stealing home4595726 in a season. That year Rodriguez swiped home a record seven times, while hitting .355, and stealing a total of 71 bases. With Rodriguez’s unique 5 tool set, he helped the Dodgers win two World Series Championships, became a three-time MVP, and 11 time all-star. Sadly, “The Jet” was grounded before he reached pinnacle.

In pursuit of Ty Cobb’s infamous 54 home steals, Rodriguez was just two away from tying the record when he tried for number 53. This time as he slid toward home plate his right knee would connect with the catchers shin guard, his knee buckled. From that day forward Rodriguez never made a full recovery and never stole home again. Being only 31 at the time, it was only a matter of time until Rodriguez would have broken Cobb’s record.

Despite the injury Rodriguez would play for three more seasons. With his range crippled, the Dodgers moved him to first base where for two seasons he belted 45 home runs and hit for a .300 average. Despite this, the declining Rodriguez seemed destined to be moved to the American League to be the DH for the remainder of his career. However, Rodriguez wanting to only play for the Dodgers and realizing how far his skills had declined abruptly retired at 34. When he retired he had 1,301 stolen bases, 52 of which were home,with  a career batting average of .317, and 396 home runs.

Retirement was tough on Rodriguez because for the first time in his life he wasn’t playing. “At first I just couldn’t handle it. I was in a dark place for a while without baseball. I tried to separate my self from the game, but I was depressed. Heck, Smalls even tried to get me in the booth, but that just wasn’t for me”.

After years of internal turmoil, baseball brought Benny back. After being given the manager’s job for the Las Vegas 51s, the Dodgers former Triple A team, Rodriguez realized that he had found what he was supposed to do. “I realized that I could make a difference in young players lives and loved the challenge”. Now the hitting coach with the Dodgers Rodriguez’s latest triumph is the Dodger’s latest phenom, Yasiel Puig. “It’s easy working with him, I’ve never seen a player with so much talent and a love for the game. It’s easy to work with someone who loves the game so much, and he reminds me of myself when I was playing”. When asked about the possibility of leaving for a managerial job Rodriguez replied “I’d never leave this organization. I was born a Dodger, I’ll die a Dodger”.

Benny the Jet will always have his place in Dodger history and in Cooperstown. One thing is for certain, this is one legend that will never die.

One too many: Sports sequels that destroyed great film franchises

Sports movies are great sources of entertainment. They combine the thrill of sports with a roller coaster of emotions and back story that only hollywood can provide. These movies not only entertain but spark a child’s life long passion for sports. For me both the Sandlot and the Mighty Ducks inspired  my  passion for baseball and ice hockey respectively. There are so many sports classics that have touched millions of people, but Hollywood has a knack for ruining a great thing. The infamous sequel can be a great movie, but like Shaq at the free throw line, these movies often miss the mark and can tarnish their predecessor’s legacy. Here is my list for the top 5 worst sports sequels that ruined some of the best sport movie franchises.

5) Slap Shot 2

This sequel missed the net

This sequel missed the net

When a sequel is made 25 years after the original you know it’s going to be bad news. With the original considered the perfect and quintessential hockey movie, it’s impossible to improve or repeat perfection. Now you have the Hanson brothers  25 years older, the team is moving, Stephen Baldwin is the new player coach, and did I mention their new gig is being the losing team to the Omaha Ice Breakers. They’ve gone from the batboys of minor league hockey to the scripted losing team in hockey’s version of the Harlem Globetrotters. Plus Paul Neumann isn’t in this movie. He was hysterical and it’s Paul Neumann, enough said. It’s a shame this movie was made with the original being perfect for its time in the 1970s, an age where hockey violence and shenanigans were at its peak. This new version doesn’t fit the times and slams the legacy the of this franchise into the boards. Thank god this film is mostly forgotten because it doesn’t do the original any justice.

4) D3: The Mighty Ducks

From Minnesota miracle to JV?

From Minnesota miracle to JV?

The Mighty Ducks franchise created two classic hockey movies. In the original, the Ducks overcame the Hawks to win the state championship. In D2, the team beat Iceland to be the best junior team in the world. Things were going so well after two hit movies, a cartoon series, and an actual professional franchise named after them. However, D3 nuked the franchise and officially fried the ducks. It took away Gordon Bombay, the charismatic coach tried to fill the void with actors trying painfully too hard to get a laugh. The icon of the series, Charlie Conway, went from being the perfect role model to a snarky and stuck up brat that you just wanted to see get slammed into the glass. Did we mention that there a JV team? Seriously I understand being the underdog but if they beat Iceland shouldn’t they be good enough to be a varsity team? This movie took everything that was great about the first two movies and completely threw it out the window. This movie turned out to be a quack.

3 The Sandlot 2

Not only was this movie a swing in a miss but it spawned another sequel

Not only was this movie a swing in a miss but it spawned another sequel

Growing up the Sandlot was one of my favorite movies. Anyone whose seen this just wants to gather up the neighborhood kids and go play ball! Everybody wanted to be Bennie “The Jet” Rodriguez, even though they were clearly a Smalls. However, hollywood decided to take the Sandlot’s great name and drag it through the dirt. The sequel has the same exact premise as the first one, literally. They just did the same story except a decade later and with characters so bad they made you cringe.  No one was memorable and this movie didn’t teach us anything. The first taught us about chewing tobacco, how to insult other ball players, and most importantly how to make smores. I don’t know whats worst the fact that this movie completely took the great idea of the Sandlot and turned it into a joke or that this movie spawned a third Sandlot movie. Either way this sequel struck out looking.

2) Major League 3 Back to the minors

This franchise deserved a demotion after this wild pitch

This franchise deserved a demotion after this wild pitch

The first Major League was hysterical, and the sequel was a solid follow-up. However, the old cliché that the third time is the charm clearly doesn’t apply to this film. We go from the “Wild Thing” and the major league shenanigans to the minor leagues? Seriously if there was a minor league for actors all of these actors in this movie would never see the pros. This film removes almost every trace of the original including the Indians, and replaces it with the Twins minor league team the Buzz. Instead of the Indians trying to win the World Series this train wreck focuses on not one but two games where the Buzz try to defeat their major league counterparts. Charlie Sheen may have been “winning” in the first two Major League films, but this sad attempt to revamp the beloved film franchise deserves a demotion.

1) Caddyshack 2

Forget hitting the fairway, this film is way out of bounds

Forget hitting the fairway, this film is way out-of-bounds

One of the greatest comedies every made was the original Caddyshack. The crazy gopher, Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, and Bill Murrary were the perfect ensemble cast and have created laughs that will continue for decades. But once again hollywood just can’t resist sacrificing a film’s legacy in the pursuit of the all mighty dollar. Where to start, first with only Chevy Chase returning to this franchise while the others wisely jumped off this runaway golf cart. A sequel eight years after the original, two-thirds of the comedy trio not returning, this was a disaster waiting to happen. Instead of trying to find funny actors, lets bombard the audience with ridiculous eye candy. Seriously, it looks like a miniature golf course threw up all over this movie. Jeez, I though the worst thing in golf was Happy Gilmore’s putting. Boy was I wrong. Do you agree you disagree? Which terrible sports sequel made your eyes and ears cringe? Comment and follow below!