sat on the edge of his chair and waited Wednesday, his eyes glued to the MLB Network.
He waited. And waited. And waited. He waited for his name to be called, as it always has been when it came to baseball. The waiting finally beat him. He got up with more pressing matters he needed to attend to: He had to pick up a suit for his senior prom.
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound catcher from Washington (New York City)
thought he would go in the first five rounds of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Amateur Draft.
He was picked in the 15th round by the Cleveland Indians. Rodriguez found out when his mother called him while picking up his prom suit.
Rodriguez is one of many examples of where a player can be projected — and sometimes, where they actually go. It left Rodriguez, his coach, Steve Mandl, and most probably a few others scratching their heads and wondering what happened.
Here's a bona fide talent and viewed by most scouts as among the best high school catchers in the country. Yet, he sunk to the 15th round. He got off to a slow start, but picked his average up to close to .500.
For the first time in his life, since he ever picked up a baseball, Rodriguez began questioning his ability.
"I thought I would go in the first five rounds," said Rodriguez, who may be headed to either Virginia Tech or Central Arizona Junior College, if he doesn't sign with the Indians. "I was getting anxious and nervous, wondering what was going on. I'll see what Cleveland has to offer and we're negotiating the contract now. It is frustrating. I don't know what happened; no one gave me explanation.
"I was thinking ‘What happened' did I say or do something wrong. I have to prove to everyone that I am good and deserved to go higher; I'm dealing with it OK. But I don't have to like it. I have to look at the positives. I'm happy I got drafted, and if I do sign, I have to work hard and prove everyone wrong that didn't draft me higher. There is a lot of motivation for me now. Now, I'm working harder to prove everyone that they were wrong about me."
It was a frustrating few days for Mandl, the legendary New York City coach who saw two of his prime players, Rodriguez and Fernelys Sanchez
, a 16th-round choice by the Atlanta Braves, drop much lower than expected.
"I thought both were first- or second-round picks," Mandl said. "I had these scouts in my office telling me they saw Nelson and Fernelys more than they have any other kid. Nelson should have gone much higher, and I don't know what the answer is. If Cleveland gives Nelson a good offer, and he signs, he'll prove everyone wrong. When I had Manny Ramirez in the early 1990s, the Indians took Manny with the 13th overall and the Yankees took Brien Taylor with the first pick. I told everyone and the Yankees, Manny was the best player in the draft."
Brien Taylor, chosen 12 picks higher than Ramirez, went on and never threw a pitch in the majors (a shoulder injury in a fist fight contributed to that). He continues to be one of the biggest draft busts in Major League history. Ramirez went on to be a multiple-time all-star and a World Series champion with the Boston Red Sox.
In 1997, Mandl felt he had one of the best high school players in the country in outfielder Vicente Rosario. He wound up sinking to the eighth round, selected by the New York Mets.
"I want to the Mets and said what the heck, and they said, ‘Hey, you had 29 other teams that didn't pick him," Mandl said. "I learned to shut my mouth and I learned that if someone is high on someone's board, and they drop. I'm sure some teams were hoping someone like Nelson was going to be there later. A team passes up on a kid, and they start to think something is wrong. Nelson has some things to prove right now. If he gets a good offer, we'll see. I learned through the years you can't figure this stuff out."
As for Rodriguez, he's thinking of signing with the Indians. But he has other options, with college.
"I may go to college, but I want to see first what Cleveland has to offer. Me and my mom are talking to them. I went to my prom and I had a good time. I'll be back. They haven't heard the last of me. I'm getting ready for whatever happens to me next."