MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin head baseball coach Bubba Cates has announced the hiring of Craig Rodriguez as a volunteer assistant for the Skyhawk program.
Rodriguez recently was a volunteer assistant at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville, Fla., working under head coach Doug Martin. In Rodriguez’s first season, the Raiders tallied a 30-19 record in 2012.
“I am excited for the opportunity to help out,” Rodriguez said. “Being from Mississippi, I knew a little bit about Coach Cates’ background and his time at Delta State. I knew a lot of people who had nothing but great things to say about Coach Cates.”
Cates was familiar with Rodriguez through Cates’ legendary former collegiate coach at Delta State, Dave “Boo” Ferriss.
“We are excited about Craig being here,” Cates said. “We needed some help and he was looking for a place to help. He has a good background as his father played at Southern Miss and he comes from successful programs.”
A native of Sugarland, Texas, Rodriguez provides an extensive background in professional baseball. He was selected in the Major League Baseball Draft in both 2004 (31st round, Tampa Bay Rays) and 2007 (28th round, Colorado Rockies). He also spent time in the Kansas City Royals’ system in 2009-10. His best professional season came in 2008, when he recorded a 4-3 win-loss record and a 2.59 ERA in 59 innings over 42 appearances.
Cates knows Rodriguez’s experience on the professional circuit will help UT Martin’s pitching staff.
“From a player’s standpoint, it is neat to have a coach with a connection with professional baseball,” Cates said. “Every college player craves that and now both Craig and our pitching coach Zac Cole have that background on our coaching staff. They can certainly use that knowledge to share with our players. That credibility is a huge positive for our program.”
Rodriguez played collegiately at Ole Miss for two years under head coach Mike Bianco. As a junior in 2006, Rodriguez and the Rebels went 44-22, advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals and were one game away from clinching a berth in the College World Series. The 6-4 southpaw emerged as one of the team’s most clutch performers, earning the mound victory against No. 30 Vanderbilt in the Southeastern Conference Tournament championship and in Ole Miss’ win over No. 11 Miami in the Super Regionals.
As the team’s No. 1 starter for a majority of the SEC season, Rodriguez posted a 5-3 record with a 5.53 ERA in 81.1 innings. Making 20 appearances (nine starts), he recorded nearly a 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (59 strikeouts against 22 walks) while tying a team-high with two complete games.
During his senior season (2007), Ole Miss went 40-25 and once again made an appearance in the NCAA Super Regionals. Rodriguez was responsible for the Rebels’ NCAA Regionals clinching victory against Sam Houston State. He also notched a victory against No. 5 Arkansas earlier in the season.
In 21 appearances (two starts), Rodriguez went 2-2 with a save. He fanned 28 while not allowing a single home run in 37.1 innings.
Before transferring to Ole Miss, Rodriguez was a big part of the success of Pearl River Community College in Poplarville, Miss. Playing under head coach Jay Artigues, Rodriguez and the Wildcats were ranked No. 1 in the nation during his sophomore season, when he was named a first team All-American as well as an all-state and all-region recipient.
As a sophomore, Rodriguez went 12-2 with four saves while logging a 2.21 ERA in 18 appearances. He registered 110 strikeouts against only 23 walks in 78.1 innings. That followed a freshman campaign in which he helped Pearl River to the 2004 Mississippi state championship.
Rodriguez prepped at St. Pius X High School for coach Thomas McGee. He was a three-time all-district and two-time all-state selection, going 22-11 with a 1.94 career ERA. In Rodriguez’s high school career, he struck out 221 batters with just 76 walks in 191 innings in 33 appearances while hitting .275 with eight homers and 45 RBI. He pitched in the state championship game twice in his career, helping lead the Panthers to the 5A state title in 2003.
During his senior year, Rodriguez was 10-3 with a 1.23 ERA in 13 appearances. He fanned 100 batters against 26 walks in 80 innings on his way to district MVP honors.
Rodriguez is married to the former Katie Seal from Picayune, Miss. He graduated from Ole Miss in 2012 with a degree in family and consumer science.