Let’s go back to when you were 16—taking classes at school you never really cared about, maybe working a side job that you never really wanted. Just going through the motions. But for a 16-year-old Miguel Rojas, he was already realizing his dream and beginning his life as a professional baseball player, having signed with the Cincinnati Reds in 2005 out of Venezuela. The year is now 2020 and he is still playing the game he loves as a veteran infielder on the Marlins, which I believe was his destiny all along.
It’s been a long time since the organization has had a prominent player who encompasses the Miami work ethic. Miggy Ro makes it look so smooth during games, but it took countless drills and grueling workouts to establish himself as this caliber of player. The Marlins fanbase has fully embraced him. Nuestro capitán, a leader on and off the field.
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak with Rojas after he took some well-deserved time off during his busy winter.
If you had to describe yourself with one word, what would it be?
Persistent. I have always been there fighting for an opportunity and a chance. I always wants to compete on a baseball field with everything I have.
Can you tell me a little bit about what it was like when you signed with the Reds and played professional ball at 16?
When I signed with the Reds at 16, I was playing at such a young age. It was so hard, being away from home and starting my career so early in life. I was so unsure when I started if I could handle it. It was difficult to be so young and away from everything I knew.
I am happy with my career now, every day finding out amazing things in life with baseball. Baseball has taught me so much about life and it continues to teach me every day and it makes me a better person, father, and a baseball player.
What does Don Mattingly mean to you?
When I signed with the Dodgers, it was a special moment in 2013. It was amazing to have the opportunity and how amazing it was to be a part of the organization that had such a history. Donnie has always believed in me when I was just a defensive replacement. He is like a father in to everyone he has been with in baseball. He teaches me so much without saying much and that is what makes him so special. When a coach does his job he doesn’t have to tell me everything about myself—he just needs to point at something I can do better. We have spent 6-7 years together, and for baseball, that is a long time. The way he carries himself in the clubhouse and community is a special bond that he creates everywhere he goes.
Who is your favorite teammate you have ever played with?
I appreciate so many teammates. I love Martín Prado. I looked up to him growing up when I was with the Reds. He always found his spot on a team and became an All-Star. I model so much of my career from him. It was amazing to spend time with him and his family. He taught me to lead the next generation of Miami. Martín Prado was the leader of the clubhouse and it is important me that I fill in the legacy that he left in MIA.
You are a fan favorite. How does that make you feel and what would you want to say to them?
It makes me feel good. It takes time to develop the relationship with the people. I was welcomed by MIA. I didn’t make the [Opening Day roster] in 2015, but I knew that the Miami organization believed in me. The moment I got called up, I felt the love immediately from the fans and I want to thank everyone for sticking with me. I want the community to feel the love back and that is why it is so important for me to be a part of Miami community. I live in MIA and I want to be a model for the people of Miami. They always cheered for me and welcomed me with arms open. I will never forget the love you all showed me. I play with passion and heart and giving it everything on the field for the fans. I will never change the way I play the game and I hope they enjoy the way I play.
What is one interesting thing about yourself that most people don’t know about you.
Being a dad 100% is the best thing I could ever want. I am a very proud dad and that is the most special thing to me off the field.
On the field, I want to pursue a baseball career. After I can’t man the field anymore, I want to help grow and develop the next generation of players.
You had a very busy offseason, which included representing the Marlins at the Super Bowl. What has been your favorite part?
I want to be a coach, but I am okay with just being on TV maybe in a role on MLB Network. I can’t see myself anywhere yet, but I know that baseball is where I want to spend the rest of my life. The grind of the offseason is the most important thing to me because it makes me a better player. I was happy to have the opportunity to represent the Marlins in another role this offseason.
If you could go back and give yourself advice when you were 17, what would it be?
The advice is to live in the moment. Don’t worry about the future and live in the present. Don’t worry about anything that might not happen—just enjoy every moment that you are living right now. Enjoy every moment on the field because there is no way you can predict what will happen in the future. Live in the moment and live in the spirit that there is no tomorrow.
What are you looking forward to the most this year?
To win. This organization is hungry to get some wins. We are beginning to create the culture of winning. We are waiting for people to reach the big leagues and we are creating a culture of winners. The Marlins come through with what they say and that is so important. The pitching looks good and the hitters look hungry. I am in the middle of my career and what matters to me is to live in the moment and prepare the next generation. I can help more people and I know what I bring to the table.
Who is you your favorite player to watch in the league and who is the pitcher you look forward to facing?
I enjoy watching Javier Báez. The way he plays the game and the passion he plays with is contagious. He never thinks about making an error or striking out. He plays the best way. He is elite in the field and I can see the fire and passion he brings to the baseball field every day on the field. I want my kids to see the way he plays and want to grow up like that.
For the pitcher, I am always excited to go against Max Scherzer. He is unavoidable and he is always a tough matchup. When I go to sleep, I think of the next pitcher I go up against and I imagine my success. I want to face the best because I want to be the best. Max is a tough matchup and it always makes me better the game after—the level of concentration it requires, it just makes me a better player. Rojas last season against Scherzer went 4-for-8 with 2 doubles.
What would you say to the kids who have a dream today to be in your shoes in the future?
I would tell them anything is possible. I am a walking story for those kids, for the ones with a dream. I never had the big spotlight, but I had the passion and the drive for the goal. Anything is possible if you work hard enough. I want to get better every day. So work hard to get a little bit better every day. At the end of the day, you will be better than everyone else if you do this. If you want to pursue your dream of being a major league player, wake up and work harder than everyone else.
Congratulations on being a finalist for the Hutch Award for your top-notch fighting spirit and competitive desire. How does that make you feel?
This is who I am. I might not always have the best tools, but I always want to fight for my spot. I want to be on the baseball field.
Is there anything that is special to you that the Marlins community should know about?
Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. I want to give a shoutout to everyone from that organization because of what they do for the children. My son had something he had to get removed and the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital helped us so much. Every year, the Joe DiMaggio Hospital assists children in need and they have brought so much good into the world.
I would also want to work with the Mattingly Charities, because all of the great things they do. I want to create my own charity helping Venezuela immigrants get started in America and assist animals in need.
Follow Miguel Rojas on Twitter (@MRojasOfficial).