Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor has been a regular starter in the Texas infield for three seasons, but he didn't become a household name until last month, when he threw the punch heard 'round the world. Odor was suspended for eight games for punching Toronto's Jose Bautista after the Blue Jays slugger slid at Odor's legs during a double-play attempt. ESPN Deportes reporter Marly Rivera caught up with Odor about moving on from the fight and his journey through baseball and to the Texas Rangers.
Many opponents do not like the way Jose Bautista plays. Some people even said he "he had it coming." What do you think?
I didn't think anything like that. I respect him. He's a player who has been in the majors many years. He is a tremendous ballplayer.
Looking back now, would you have done anything differently?
If I had known I was going to be suspended for seven games -- those were the seven longest days of my life. Maybe I would have done things differently if I had known that I would be suspended, if I knew what I know now.
Have you looked at the replay?
Yes, I've seen it several times. I was just trying to protect my body, to protect myself. He slid into me, hard. Thank God nothing happened. But what if I had broken a leg or an ankle or something like what happened to Ruben Tejada? I was in the same situation.
Has this incident given people the wrong impression of who you are?
Maybe. After what happened, people who don't know baseball may have a bad impression of me, but people who know baseball do know that those things are a part of the game. Perhaps he was wrong, and perhaps I was also wrong.
Do you think maybe your reaction was partly because you're so young -- just 22 -- and somewhat immature?
No. There's no age if you are a professional ballplayer on a field. Inside the lines, we are all equal.
Were you upset that the media showed another video of you fighting?
I thought that was unfair. But it's out of my hands. I can't do anything about that. If they wanted to bring that to light now way after it happened, then go ahead. I have nothing to hide.
What is your perception of the Blue Jays as a team?
We are two different teams. Maybe they don't play the way we like. Or maybe we don't play in a way they like. We're different.
Adrian Beltre is a big influence in the Rangers' clubhouse. What was his advice after the incident?
Beltre does not talk much, but when he speaks, he tells you the truth and you have to listen. When I don't do something well, he's the first one to point it out. When I do something wrong and I don't realize, he will be the first one to say something to me, scold me, and give me advice. I am very grateful to him. [After the fight] he told me to put it behind me. He said, 'What happened already happened,' and to keep being the same player I've always been.
How did you start playing baseball?
My dad and my mom both love baseball. My grandfather played professional baseball. Four uncles played. Everybody was always talking to me about baseball, baseball and baseball. Even when we would get together as a family, they were always giving me advice on how to play and how to behave on the field. That helped me to be who I am.
Who is the best baseball player in your family?
I think I am. My uncles were very good players, but I'm the best on the list.
Your name is pretty unique. Where did it come from?
In my family, every male name begins with an 'R.' All my cousins have 'R' names. My name is composed of my grandfather and grandmother's name. My grandmother is Nedia, where the last three letters of my name come from, and my grandfather's name is Douglas. Since all of us cousins have names with an 'R,' they put the 'R' in front [instead of the 'D'].
You came up to the majors so young (at age 19, in 2014). That beat all the scout projections.
In every league I ever played in the minors, I was always the youngest player in the league. That's why I always tried to give my very best -- to prove myself. Another thing that helped me was that when I was a little boy, my dad was a scout for Cleveland. My dad coached baseball players older than me. So since I was a boy I was surrounded by much older players.
[When I got called up] I couldn't believe it at first. I had just come back from playing winter ball in Venezuela. That helped me a lot because it's similar to Major League Baseball. There are many major leaguers, many retired Major League Baseball players -- to play with them helped me. They gave me many tips that helped me both on and off the field. Little things that may not seem like much, but they help a lot.
You moved to second base from shortstop -- who helped you learn the position?
My uncle Rouglas. He and my dad both worked with Cleveland. My dad worked for nine years as a scout, and my uncle played his entire career with Cleveland and later became a coach; he's still a coach there. He showed me many videos of Omar Vizquel and Roberto Alomar.
My favorite player is Roberto Alomar. To watch videos of him playing, I think it helped me a lot. The plays that I liked best were the Roberto Alomar double plays. When he grabbed the ball and threw it and jumped. I think that was always one of the things that I liked the most about him. I have several photos of Roberto Alomar jumping up in the air, and then I look at some of mine and they look more or less alike. I am proud of that.
What is your defensive approach at second base?
It depends on the hitter. For example, Robinson Cano hits the ball everywhere, and hits it hard. I will play him leaning towards the hole. Sometimes when I read a hitter's swing and see that he wants to hit the ball to the opposite side, then I move a little more towards the middle. I follow the stats and positioning that they give me, telling me where I have to play. I get to a point where I start where they tell me and then I adjust.
But it all starts with knowing your pitcher and what he throws. As an example, Martin Perez has a good sinker. Knowing Jose Altuve, he will hit it from the middle to the opposite side because it's a good sinker. I play a little more to my left because he will hit the ball between center and right. The more you play against someone, the more you know more or less how they like to hit. Altuve will hit the ball where you least expect it. That's what's amazing about him. But it all has to do with who is pitching.
What has helped your approach, being so young?
Having Elvis Andrus next to me is one of the things that has helped me the most. He helps me know the players. He and I are always talking during the game. He positions me sometimes. He tells me, 'Hey, move a little over there or towards the back or the front.' He's been in this league for many years, and he knows more ballplayers.
What is the key to the Rangers' success this season?
We have a very united team. We are a team that loves to have fun. But one of the most important things is that we are like a family. We are all good friends. Imagine this, there are Americans, Japanese, Koreans, Dominicans, Venezuelans, and we all treat each other equally. No matter where we are from. When we are on the field, we are brothers.