CORVALLIS, Ore. -- The bond between father and son, born with a simple game of catch, and built on a love of baseball.
"He's the reason why I'm here right now," says Jake Rodriguez about his dad. "Without him, I wouldn't be playing baseball.
"I learned to love the game, I learned to respect the game from him."
Rodriguez's dad, Marco, was a high school baseball coach and brought his son to practice nearly everyday.
Now Jake brings a part of his dad to the plate every at bat.
If you look closely his gear, you'll see a subtle tribute, his father's initials.
"When I get in the box, I try to clear my head as much as possible, think about my dad being the stands, watching me play, says Rodriguez."
Marco, who also went by Tony died last June when a blood clot moved from his leg to his heart. Jake says it was the worst time in his life.
"He was my best friend," says Rodriguez. "It was really hard for me, but as tough as it is, he prepared us for our lives. He set us up and did everything he could for us.
"I couldn't have asked for a better dad."
After taking a few weeks off, Rodriguez joined his summer team in the Cape Cod League. J-Rod is not known for his home run abilities, but in his very first at bat, he hit one well past center field wall.
"I just couldn't believe I hit the ball first of all, but to do that, it was something beyond baseball," says Rodriguez.
A heavy hearted Rodriguez says he leaned on his teammates the most and notably, head coach Pat Casey, who has a tough love mentality much like Tony.
"Tony was just a great human being," says Casey. "He loved baseball and came to all the games. He was just a guy you could count on to be in the front row and have a big smile on his face. It was tough on all of us."
The game of baseball brought father and son closer, and now it helps keep the relationship alive.
"I still struggle with it, every game," says Rodriguez. "But I know he's still watching somewhere."