Julio Rodriguez is one of the very best prospects in baseball, and has been since he arrived in the United States as an 18-year-old in 2019. He spent most of this season absolutely beating the pants off opposing pitching at High-A, a league in which he was nearly three years younger than the average player. When it became clear that he was too good for that level the Mariners promoted him, and Rodriguez has since been only slightly less rude to pitchers at Double-A Arkansas, in a league he is just a shade more than four years younger than the competition on balance. In August, he suited up for the Dominican Republic’s bronze medal-winning Olympic team and put up a .417/.625/.444 batting line in a lineup full of recent big leaguers and against players of similar caliber. He is really good, and as good a bet to someday become The Guy Who Redeems Jerry Dipoto’s Whole Weird Thing as any player in the Mariners organization.
Anyway, here is what happened when Isaias Quiroz, a 24-year-old backup catcher for the Frisco RoughRiders, threw Rodriguez an absolute cement-mixer of a pseudo-eephus during the seventh and final inning of the second game of a Double-A doubleheader that the Travelers were in the process of sweeping on Thursday night. You will want to have the sound on, I think, and not just for the bat crack.
There is a lot to enjoy, here. You’ve got RoughRiders broadcaster Zach Bigley observing, quite correctly, that throwing a batting-practice pitch would naturally lead to a batting-practice homer. There is the seemingly jocular interaction between Rodriguez and Quiroz in the aftermath. Quiroz was making the second pitching appearance of an eight-year pro career that only reached Double-A earlier this week; Rodriguez is just passing through on his way to the bigs. Everyone seemed to understand what they were doing in that moment, and to be more or less fine with it. Bigley told me via DM that the official ballpark reading on Quiroz’s pitch was 52 miles per hour. It almost certainly traveled more than twice as fast on its way out of the park as it did when leaving Quiroz’s hand.
But mostly there is the full-spectrum delight of the moment itself. There is an eephus that only vaguely even eephs, settling directly into The Kill Zone against one of the best hitters in the minors, and then there is the sound of the result, which is sort of like an extremely well-mic’ed golf drive and also sort of like a can of soda being opened very vigorously. This is followed shortly thereafter by the sound of the ball thonking off the roof of a tin roof in left field, and the awed rustle of the sparse crowd remaining at the end of a long and lopsided day.
More than that, though, there is the perfect visual comedy of that pitch making its unhurried way into the same spot where it might have rested, and not moving all that much slower, if it had been placed on a tee. Batting practice pitches generally move faster; if anything, this pitch probably demanded more of Rodriguez than the ones he’d faced in the cage before the game. The insignificance of the moment fights with its perfectly apposite aesthetics, but not especially vigorously. They jostle, maybe. It is more accurate to say that the two forces bump gently up against each other and then retreat, apologizing good-naturedly. It is difficult to imagine a more eloquent filmed expression of Baseball, In August. All of it is perfect.