The personal relationship Sean Rodriguez, utility infielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, has with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, is his foundation for living his daily life. As Scripture speaks of building a house on sand or rock (Matthew 7:24-27) when the storms of life come, the house built on the rock withstands those storms. Sean shares, “Christ is the strong foundation, like a building’s solid foundation, that helps us in difficult times. Christ is a Light in a dark world. Whatever evil confronts us, our relationship with Christ provides the strength to face those challenges.”
Rodriguez was born and raised in Miami, Florida, to parents who were Cuban immigrants. Johnny and Marciella Rodriguez struggled to find their walk with the Lord. The year Sean was born (1985) Johnny, who has long been involved in baseball including a minor league manager, came to accept Christ as Savior and Lord. “The year I was born,” states Sean, “my dad came to accept Christ and completely gave his life to God. That is essentially when he made his turn to the Lord. While growing up, dad and mom instilled in all four of us kids the need for our Savior.”
Rodriguez’s personal growth regarding his faith grew over time through church and family teaching about Jesus. “My parents always kept God and Jesus in our discussions in our family home and taught us to put God first in our life. I spent a lot of time in church and around the family where they made sure we spent a lot of time in God’s word.”
Teammate Josh Harrison comments, “Sean is one of my closest friends. What drew us together was knowing his walk with the Lord was important to him. Sean is a very humble guy. He lets it be known he’s a Believer and God plays a huge role in his life. He is a guy you want on your team and in the clubhouse.”
Sean is the youngest of four children. The oldest is sister, Anays, brother, Robert (played five years in the Washington Nationals’ organization), sister, Natasha, and Sean. Sean shares, “Our family is of Cuban descent. We have Cuban blood, Cuban background. My grandparents were born and lived in Cuba, and my parents were both born in Cuba before coming to America.” Sean continues, “I was born and raised in Miami. We moved all around in different areas of Miami. My parents never owned a home when we were growing up. My siblings and I were the first generation to be born and raised in the United States. We came from humble beginnings.”
Sean graduated from G. Holmes Braddock High School in Miami and was drafted out of high school by the Anaheim Angels in the third round (90th overall) in 2003. On April 18,2008, Sean made his major league debut against the Seattle Mariners getting one hit in four tries. In 2010 he went to the Tampa Bay Rays and on to Pittsburgh in 2015 where he is still playing for the Pirates.
Marries High School Sweetheart
Sean’s wife, Giselle, was his high school sweetheart. He explains how they got together, “Giselle was always one of my closest friends, and she was always trying to find me my perfect girlfriend. Our first date was actually an accident because she was trying to cover for one of her friends who was going to stand me up at the movies. She thought to herself ‘I was not going to let Sean go by himself.’ So she ended up coming to the movies as a substitute date. And as they say, ‘that’s all she wrote!’” Sean and Giselle eloped on February 7, 2007. They are the parents of four children, Sofia (8), Sean Jr. (Gogo) (7), Venelope (3) and Zekiel (2).
Pirates relief pitcher, Jerrod Hughes, comments, “Sean is one of the strongest guys on the team but not just on the field or in weight room. He has an incredible strong relationship with Christ. It just shows in his relationship with his family, friends, and his teammates. He has a beautiful wife, Giselle; and together, they are walking in unison with the Lord.”
The Golden Rule
One of Sean’s favorite Bible verses is Matthew 7:12, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (The Golden Rule) “I have always liked Matthew 7:12 because no matter your situation, no matter your circumstances, you can’t allow anything to dictate how you treat someone. If you are being a loving person, love should be what you get in return. It might not always happen, but that’s life. If you want someone to treat you right or respect you, then you do the same.”
Rodriguez’s second favorite verse is the popular Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Sean shares, “Jesus has shaped my life tremendously. I am a good example of what God’s grace and mercy can do for an individual. I was exposed growing up to things no youth should be exposed to. Having the Lord in my life helped me to stay on the right path and stay focused on Him.” He concludes, “My Lord helped me from going down the wrong path. I am trying to show that you can be around such people but still be able to stand with Christ.”
Rodriguez understands he is an imperfect man and does not pretend to be perfect. He says whatever he does he tries to do the best he can because he is doing it for Christ. “Having the Lord with me helps me on a daily basis to get through each day because some days are not easy. Each day I take steps to get closer to God and continue with a one-on-one relationship with Him.”
Passion to Serve
Sean and Giselle seek to serve the Lord through various donations, charities, and community projects. However, they have found their time limited due to their emphasis on autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Their seven-year-old son, Sean Jr., was diagnosed at age 2 with ASD which is autism. Sean comments, “Having a child with autism makes our daily routines a little bit different. It is a different journey. No doubt, God has helped out on this journey. It took some time for us to see that God can use this experience for good instead of something to dread. God will not give us more than what we can handle; and God promises ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” (Hebrews 13:5) Sean continues, “It makes my time limited when I put my time and focus with my son and the family. Daily we try to feed ourselves with the Word of God, reading and feeding the soul.”
Sean and Giselle have a goal to bring awareness to ASD. He shares, “Our goal is to promote awareness of autism, to let people know it has such a broad spectrum. There are never two cases the same. When I played at Tampa Bay, we got together with people to participate (each year) in a ‘walk’ to promote awareness. The last two years in Pittsburgh there has been a ‘Faith Night’ event we get involved with. We are constantly promoting awareness trying to encourage people to educate themselves. We definitely try to do as much as we can in the autism community.”
The Rodriguez’ went to New York to a clinic where they are doing amazing things in the area of autism. They learned a lot about diagnosis, therapy, and all the research on ASD. They also were made aware that ASD is growing to epidemic proportions. Sean comments, “Families might need help whether it is for speech impediment or mental delay or physical. It is such a varied spectrum. The hardest part is getting over the denial. There is denial no doubt; I was in that spot for a while. It is nothing less than a journey.”
Sean, Giselle and the family make their off-season home in the Tampa, Florida area, and they attend Relevant Church in Ybor City. They have found the fellowship and people so supportive at their church. Sean and Giselle realize many families find their journey a real struggle, especially financially. “Giselle and I are trying to find ways to help fund families with children who need instruction or therapy and can’t afford it because their insurance does not cover it. The Lord has blessed us, and we want to be supportive and help because ASD is a growing epidemic. So promoting awareness has always been the key.”
Pirates’ Chaplain, Brad Henderson, shares, “Sean and Giselle have brought great spiritual leadership to the team. They have been willing to openly and honestly share their wisdom on baseball, marriage, and raising kids. The Rodriguez family has been a great blessing to the Pirates and the city of Pittsburgh.”
With a strong faith placed firmly on the foundation of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Sean continues to find ways to serve his Lord by reaching out to others whose journey may be challenging.
Written by Bruce A. Darnall, Lake Mills, Wisconsin
Photos credited to Pittsburgh Pirates