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The Buckhorn

Copyright (c) 2010
Winters Express
312 Railroad Avenue, Winters, CA 95694
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Rodriguez brothers chosen Grand Marshals

By DEBRA DeANGELO
Express editor
For some volunteers, the task at hand seems like hard work. For others, it’s a joy. This year’s Youth Day Grand Marshals are clearly amongst the latter.
Brothers Chris, John and Marc Rodriguez devote hours of their lives to Winters Little League, serving in every capacity from coach to board member, and have done so all their lives. They had excellent role models — their parents Linda and the late Rudy Rodriguez devoted their time to Little League as well as the boys grew up, and all three have nothing but fond memories of those times, as well as a deep appreciation for all the adults who volunteered to make Little League a great experience for them.
Their father is credited with bringing the city’s youth recreation baseball program to the Little League level, allowing the kids to play children from other towns and advance into post-league play. In those days, there was no “snack shack.” Rudy sold concessions from the back of his truck.
Rudy and Linda were Youth Day Co-Grand Marshals themselves in 1990, and then chosen as Citizens of the Year in 1991 for their devotion to Little League, beginning in 1971 just after they were married. They are credited with starting the annual crab feed event in 1982, which has grown into one of Little League’s biggest fundraisers, selling out every year.
In an April 5, 1990 Winters Express story about Rudy and Linda when they were chosen as Co-Grand Marshals, Rudy said baseball was always part of his life.
“I have really fond memories of baseball,” Rudy said in that story, and noted that his father had made a point of being at all his games.
Talking with Rudy’s sons now is almost like déjà-vu. The love and devotion their father had to them and all the children in the community comes through loud and clear in their words. Rudy sadly passed away in 1995 from complications of Lupus and Valley Fever, and Linda now devotes much of her time to her position at The Buckhorn, but as the Rodriguez boys grew up, they carried their parents’ legacy forward and stepped up to the plate to support Little League.
All three played Little League their entire lives, and have nothing but positive memories to share. Chris began umpiring at 13 and later served as coach when his own kids were old enough to play T-Ball. John has also served many years as a coach, and both have sat on the Little League’s board of directors for 13 years, have served as referees for a men’s basketball league, and also coach AYSO soccer. Youngest brother Mark, who was on the ball field coaching his T-ball team during the Express interview, trotted over and hopped the fence to note that he coaches not just Little League, but Winters Swim Team, AYSO soccer and city youth basketball as well.
Fueled by joyful memories, Chris says his father didn’t go out of his way to force his sons to play or volunteer, he just brought them along to work at the Little League Park or when he would shut things down at night and they all just thought they were having fun, not working.
Chris admits that he loved his Little League experiences so much, he was a little overenthusiastic when his first child was born — he brought him to the Little League Park when he was only three days old.
John remembers accompanying his father when he’d referee for a college basketball league in Sacramento, and this also just seemed like more good times. But, there was never any pressure.
“He never said, ‘This is what I want you to do,’” says John.
Chris says it’s easy to love Little League the way they do and to want to get involved, and invites adults to come down to the Little League Park and see what it’s all about — just seeing all the kids in their bright uniforms, and the parents in the stands shouting words of encouragement is enough to infect someone with the volunteer bug. And, they note, a few more volunteers wouldn’t hurt.
“It’s all volunteers,” says John of Little League. “It wouldn’t happen without them. No one is on a payroll.”
He says the pool of volunteers got a little shallow a few years back when certain families who were the backbone of they system moved on as their own children entered high school and stopped playing Little League. At one point, enrollment dropped to about 200, but John says it has bounced back to about 400 enrolled, and he credits that rejuvenation to the many people who volunteer as coaches, snack shack workers, umpires, and all-around helpers and supporters.
“There are so many people involved,” he says. “It takes at least 25 to run a program.” In particular, he notes that Corrine Duran, Ruben Valencia and Jason Davis are amongst the many people working together to keep Little League alive and thriving. “There’s a lot of people that make this happen.”
Marc adds that supporting the children is a rewarding, in and of itself.
“I think it’s good to be supportive of the kids, and spend time with the kids, and get to know the kids and their parents.”
“All of us do what we do because we love it, and not for any other reason,” adds Chris. “We love every minute of it.”
John reveals that all three considered becoming teachers, but eventually chose other paths. He is an accountant and Chris is a lawyer. Marc was the only one to follow the teaching path, and not only teaches at Dixon High School, but married a teacher too. John says that drive to make a difference in children’s lives never faded for Chris or him, however, and devoting themselves to Little League is a way to still accomplish that.
“We can’t get to every kid, but we can change a kid’s life. The more time we spend here, the more time we have to inspire another person to umpire or coach.”
Clearly, the joy of serving the Little League legacy is reward enough for the Rodriguez brothers, who never sought out the spotlight or accolades. Nonetheless, all three are excited about being this year’s Youth Day Grand Marshals and riding in the parade.
“I want to get all the Little League players to come to the parade,” says John with a big smile.
“Youth Day was always one of my favorite things,” adds Chris.
Riding together as Grand Marshals is “obviously a big honor,” says Marc.
“I feel grateful that they would recognize me and my brothers for our service. It’s something this community values.”
John agrees, and notes that there are a lot of people in Winters who devote their time to a variety of groups and causes, from sports to PTA to the library, and this generosity and commitment is what he and his brothers grew up with, and it’s what they want to help keep going.
“It’s that community spirit — that’s what makes Winters ‘Winters’,” says John. “I think that’s what sets Winters apart from other towns.”
Growing up in a place with those close-knit values is something that stuck with not just the Rodriguez brothers, but many of their childhood friends as well.
“None of our wives are from here,” he says, explaining that as they went off to college and married, and started thinking about raising families, he and his brothers and friends all returned to their roots. He says one of the wives was skeptical about moving to such a small town, and her husband asked her to just try it for a couple months. By the end of that time, his wife said she’d never leave.
Marc says it’s these sort of experiences, memories, and connections that motivate them to serve the community. He remembers all the people who coached him and worked with him as he grew up.
“I had a good experience. I want to pay it forward.”
All three nod in agreement.
“It’s our turn now,” says John. “We looked up to those people who did a good job to do something for us. It’s time to give back now.”
The whole community will have an opportunity to honor the Rodriguez brothers for their work at Youth Day opening ceremonies on Friday, April 25, and again as they lead the parade on Saturday, April 26. They are working on getting a vehicle that can hold all of them together, and anticipating having a great time.
“We are honored to be chosen as Grand Marshals,” says John. “We hope we will do the honor well.”
Before turning back to their various duties at the Little League park, all three emphasized that the women in their lives — their mother and their wives — have all played a huge role in supporting their Little League activities.
Marc and his wife, Olivia (a teacher at Winters High School) have two children, Isabella, 6, and Christopher (affectionately known as Honey Badger), 4. John and his wife, Jean, have two daughters, Anne and Katie, 6, and Chris and his wife Shannon have three children, Dominic, 11, Ashley, 8, and Zachary, 6.