I celebrated my three-year anniversary the other day, and it occurs to me that I might never have gotten to this point if not for a very good friend. Of course, none of us is where we are now without the support of very good friends. I lost one such friend this week. Juan C. Rodriguez, who had been a Marlins beat writer since 2002, passed away after a lengthy battle with brain cancer. I don’t want to get bogged down in Juan’s passing. It’s too fresh for everyone, and far too painful. Instead, I want to share some memories of my good friend.
I met Juan around the time I first started my company. I was 20, hanging around Jupiter, and by that time I had been fortunate enough to befriend the Marlins’ beat writer at the time, Mike Berardino. He eventually introduced me to Juan, in an obvious attempt to pass an annoying 20-year-old off on somebody else. Juan was the first reporter to take me seriously; it felt at the time like everybody else thought I was a joke, too young for the industry. Juan was the nicest and most cordial writer I have ever spent time with, hands down. There are a ton of good people in this business, but like any business you get the idiots, too. Guys like Juan C. are way too few and far between.
In 2006, I had a client named Carlos Martinez break camp with the Marlins all the way from A-Ball. Carlos, formerly Juan Nova before MLB figured out he’d falsified his ID (I had no idea), was a great story. Juan went out of his way to contact me and write some really terrific work about my first full-time major-league player, and from there we became fast friends. In 2007 I moved to Davie, Florida, the town where Nova Southeastern College and not much else is located. Juan C. lived not too far from where I lived in Davie, and we spent a lot of time together meeting up and just talking.
I was definitely going through some kind of existential crisis at the time. I was 26 and Juan was always there to talk me off the ledge. I cannot count the times we chatted on AIM until 3 a.m.. I’d tell him my terrible jokes; he’d counsel me on my relationship problem. What’s funny is we barely spoke about baseball. Question here, comment there. but mostly about life. He gushed about his wife Tiffany and his children. He was as devoted a family man as I have ever seen.
Over the years, I had three clients play in the majors for the Marlins: Carlos Martinez, Zach Kroenke, and Stephen Ames. When Zach was picked in the Rule 5 draft by the Marlins, he ended up staying at my house for a spell. I set up dinner plans with Juan C., who proceeded to treat Zach like he was a 15-year veteran and not a Rule 5er fighting to make the club. The last time we worked together was when the Marlins traded Ricky Nolasco, and Stephen Ames was part of the package coming back to Florida. Stephen’s major-league debut was the last time I saw Juan at work. I introduced him to Stephen’s family, and again he did what he always did and treated Stephen as if he was going to cover him for the next 20 years. That was the thing with Juan: He never took any opportunities for granted, ever. You never know.
There is a select group of people I talk to at 3 or 4 in the morning. Friends from high school, writers, journalists, etc. I like knowing that if someone calls me that late, something unpredictable or fun might be about to happen. Unexpected opportunities open up, friends find somebody to vent to, life is unconstrained by the limits of billable hours or time clocks. I especially loved the late calls because I read somewhere that Hunter S. Thompson did that. When Hunter passed, his friends said the hardest thing was that now a 4 a.m. call could only mean bad news, and not good old Hunter being Hunter. I will miss my 4 a.m. chats with Juan C. as much as anything. He was the rarest kind of person, the kind who’ll be missed by everyone who knew him. I loved Juan, and I encourage everyone to click this link and try to help out his family. This was as big a gut punch as they come but I will always cherish my time with my friend. Res Ipsa Loquitor
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