Brody Rodning won 21 games in three seasons with the Minnesota State University-Mankato Mavericks.
“The measure of a man is the way he bears up under misfortune.”
―Peter Nivio Zarlenga
Brody Rodning did more than just bear up under misfortune in 2017. The Gaylord, Minnesota native had dealt with quite a bit of adversity by the time he arrived in Vancouver last summer. Dealing with the passing of his mother Tiffany due to colon cancer the day before, the 6-foot-1 lefthander from Minnesota State University-Mankato pitched the game of his life by spinning a complete-game, two-hit shutout against rival Minnesota-Duluth at U.S. Bank Stadium on March 24.
Rodning said being on the mound was the best way to honour his mother.
“You know, it was actually just kind of knowing that it was what she wanted for me. She obviously wanted the best when she was alive and I know when she passed, she still wanted the best for me. I just know that she wanted me to go out and compete and play the game I love but I got through it.
My teammates really helped me out, I had a really great supporting family away from home with my teammates. They made me feel, you know, a lot of comfort and they were there for me.
We really meshed together as a team a lot this year because just a month before my mother passed, one of my really good friends and teammates (Adam Ellingson) passed away unexpectedly from a sickness too so you know, our team was going through a lot and we were there for each other and you know, just getting through that tough time with my family and then my family away from home, my teammates. They were just there for me and they made it a lot easier.”
On being able to focus during the game.
“Truthfully, you know, when I was on the mound, the competitor inside me just came out. I didn’t really think about it too much believe it or not. In between innings obviously, you know, it kind of hit me, you know, I’d think about it here and there. I’d lose some focus out on the mound but I’d just step off and I’d talk to her and then I’d just get back on the mound and do my thing.
I just think that the game itself, you know, kept me focused. I knew I had to go out and do my best, give it my all and I know that it’s what she wanted and it kind of helped me stay focused. The game just kind of flew by, truthfully. It just went so fast. I got on the mound and the next thing I know, the game was over, it was great.”
On defeating Minnesota-Duluth.
“Our biggest rival is St. Cloud State. They’re probably our biggest rival but Duluth is definitely one of our other tough competitors. I think the year before that, they won the conference so they had a target on their back. They’re a good team coming back so, you know, getting that win, especially (under the circumstances), it was great.”
Brody Rodning & his family were Minnesota Wild guests this afternoon where Brody was honored to do “Let’s Play Hockey” pregame announcement. pic.twitter.com/HR3Dake9sC
— Minn. St. Athletics (@msumavericks) April 2, 2017
— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) April 2, 2017
Rodning—who just turned 22 on January 14—also reflected on the experience of he and his family being the special guests of honour at a Minnesota Wild game last spring.
“That was awesome. That was incredible. You go to a Wild game, the Minnesota Wild. That’s really big here in Minnesota. Minnesota people, they love their hockey. Every Wild game is basically sold out and when you go, that’s like a big thing. You see all the famous people and all these big names and the important people coming up and doing, ‘Let’s play hockey!’ Being able to do that was really important and that was really special to me under the circumstances of (his mother’s passing) so that was very special to me.”
On why he wound up at Minnesota State University-Mankato.
“I graduated high school at about 5-10, a buck-fifty (150 pounds) so I didn’t really get too many looks at any really big schools so you know coming out of high school, being really small.
The head coach at Mankato State (Matt Magers) actually was from my hometown and knew my family very well. He’s been watching me grow up and play sports so he gave me a shot to play there. I got some looks around the conference of the NFIC which is Mankata’s conference and I ended up playing there and gosh, I loved every minute of it. We were competitive all the way until the end, almost made it to the World Series every year, one game away.
I was fortunate enough to play in the Northwoods League for three years and I feel like that the competition that I played there and Mankato was just as good. I feel like we competed hard and there was some tough competition. There’s a little difference between Division I and Division II but you have that SEC and ACC and that‘s a whole different league but at Division II, I really enjoyed it and I really couldn’t tell the difference.”
Rodning and the Mavericks would go on to win the NSIC (Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference) in May and the NCAA Division II Central Regional title to advance to the Division II World Series in 2017.
He also looked back on his experience of playing summer collegiate in the Northwoods League.
“The Northwoods League was great. Honestly, the Northwoods League was kind of like playing in Vancouver. It was every day games, night games usually, and you would play the same team about two or three times in a series. You travel on a bus for a long time and you stay with a host family.
The Northwoods League kind of conditioned me and got me ready for minor league baseball. I had a lot of fun out there, I met new guys from different places, played with Division I guys, played with junior college guys, D3, NAIA and it was a great time just coming together with a bunch of guys from different places and playing.”
On meeting his former Northwoods League teammate Daulton Varsho in professional baseball.
“I played with Daulton Varsho actually all three years out in Eau Claire. He went to UW-Milwaukee, he was the catcher for me. I’m pretty sure he caught me almost every game out in Eau Claire. Between that and playing in Eau Claire, we became really good friends.
We were fortunate enough to play against each other with him playing for Hillsboro and I was playing for Vancouver so it was really nice to get to match up against him and see him again.”
Brody Rodning was drafted in the 13th round by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2017.
On getting drafted by the Blue Jays.
“I was told by scouts to expect the unexpected. I had an idea when I was going to go but obviously, I’ve never done this before so I was kind of clueless. It came to the second day. The first day I wasn’t taken obviously, those were the first two rounds. Second day I wasn’t taken, I was like ‘Oh, whatever!’
The third day came around and I was actually doing laundry. My phone rang and it was Wes Penick, my area scout and he called and he was like, ‘Hey, we want to take you this round, what are you thinking?’ and I said, ‘Of course, I’d love to get drafted!’ Sure enough, my name came on the draft board and I was drafted. I was very, very fortunate and I was extremely appreciative of the Blue Jays for taking me.
I had family and friends come over the next day. At the moment, I think I might have went out fishing that day. Other than that, the next day I had a lot of family and some college buddies came down and celebrated and we had a good time. They were very supportive of me and I’m very thankful for that.”
On getting to pitch for a Canadian team.
“Honestly, I love Canada – being lucky to have the affiliate in Vancouver. My first year was in Canada, that was awesome! Knowing that the Blue Jays, for all of Canada, that’s the only professional baseball that they have unlike hockey, there’s (seven teams). I know that the Blue Jays have great fan support and knowing that I was getting picked by them, I knew that I would have a lot of support behind my back.
I really didn’t care who I got picked by but knowing that I got picked by the Blue Jays and they’re in the American League so whenever they come to Minnesota, that’s awesome. I was very happy to be taken by the Blue Jays.”
On his introduction to pro baseball.
“I didn’t know what to expect but on the day I got drafted, my area scout told me that there was a mini-camp or whatever. We went up to Canada fishing with my family so we did a family fishing trip, spread my Mom’s ashes there and then I went down to Florida in the Gulf Coast League.”
I didn’t know what to expect or how long I was going to be there. Luckily enough, I got called up to Vancouver after about a week in the Gulf Coast League. I got to pitch once down in Florida and I went up to Vancouver. Actually, the first day I got there was on Canada Day. It was kind of a crazy day to get there and it was really cool. The place was just packed, it was sold out. They had fireworks after so it was really cool.”
On his first professional appearance in the Gulf Coast League.
“I definitely remember being a little bit nervous even though there may have been like eight people there at the Gulf Coast game but I was definitely nervous getting on the mound for my first professional start. It was really cool getting my feet wet there. It kind of got me ready for Vancouver. I don’t think it’s any different than pitching in a regular game at Mankato but it’s just a different atmosphere and everything. I mean the pitching aspect wasn’t much different but the area and the atmosphere was just a little different.”
On the difference of pitching in Florida versus Minnesota.
“Believe it or not, the summers in Minnesota are pretty similar to the ones in Florida—very hot, very humid—but there’s nothing comparable to the Florida sun. Gosh, it was just so hot and you don’t have a problem staying loose down there, that’s for sure. I mean, you get started at 10 o’clock, 9 o’clock, whenever the games were and you’re sweating more right as soon as you step out. You got to make sure you stay hydrated. That was a little different but other than that, everything was pretty much the same.”
On pitching in front of the large crowds in Vancouver.
“That’s the first time I have ever done that and that was incredible. You dream about that when you’re a kid, pitching in front of a bunch of people with the crowds going crazy.
I think my favourite part honestly, when I got to start in Vancouver, is the national anthem. The whole crowd sings the Canadian national anthem and after they get done, the whole place just erupts and it gives you goose bumps. That part, honestly, was probably my favourite.
Every play, it could have been a deep pop fly when we’re hitting and they just go crazy. It was awesome.”
Brody Rodning heads to the mound after getting a ride from the bullpen cart at Nat Bailey Stadium.
On adjusting from starting to being a tandem starter, sometimes with Nate Pearson.
“When you start the game out, it’s 0-0 but I guess, in a way, it was kind of similar because when Nate pitched, he never gave up any runs so I’d come in with a lead or it would still be 0-0.
Other than that aspect, it was relief. I didn’t really relieve much at Mankato so that was a little different but other than that it’s still pitching. You get out there, you throw your best stuff. I just think staying focused and staying mentally locked in, that was a little challenging but I’m trying to work on that.”
On developing a routine.
“I think one of the biggest things to a lot of people’s success and to mine is I stick to a routine that’s worked for me. Everyone is different but I like to stick to a routine. I do the same thing, I take my time warming up. I guess that aspect of it was a little tougher to get used to from coming out of the bullpen because depending on how many pitches the starter is throwing, you could come in the second inning, you could come in the third or the fourth so you got to be ready at any time. That was a little different but I like to stick to a routine, to stick to what’s been working. Sometime you got to switch and that’s just how it is.”
“I like to get out early before the game, do my stretching. I like to stretch out my legs and my whole body before I get out and do any other stuff. I do some arm care and I usually don’t throw a whole lot of long (toss). Once I get down throwing there, I get in the bullpen and I usually throw like 25 pitches. I don’t like to go too much more than that because I don’t want to waste anything but that’s just kind of how I’ve done it.”
On working with pitching coach Jim Czajkowski.
“Cy was awesome. He was very open to the way I throw. Particularly I land across my body quite a bit. He didn’t try to change me at all. He’d just throw in suggestions. He was like, ‘You got here for a reason. I’m not going to try and change you but why don’t you try this? This might help out a little bit.’
I’m very appreciative of that because I know his knowledge of the game, he’s very knowledgeable and being able to have him as a pitching coach for my first year in professional baseball, I was very lucky.”
On his pitching repertoire.
“When I throw strikes, I think my best pitches are my fastball and changeup combination. My changeup has really developed over the past couple of years, especially playing in the Northwoods League and coming to the minor leagues. Any guy can hit anything if you throw it over the plate and miss a spot. They can hit any speed so I think the biggest thing for me is working on my off-speed and changing speeds and eye levels for people.
Basically, I think my fastball-changeup combination has helped me out a lot and then mixing in a slider. My two-seam, I just started. It’s coming along. I’m having some trouble with command with that but that’ll come along. As soon as I got to the minor leagues, I started throwing it because I wanted something with a lot more movement. I just started throwing that and I’m working on it.”
On trying to regain his curveball.
“When I got recruited out of high school, that was my best pitch. I didn’t have a slider. After I started throwing my slider and my changeup, my curveball kind of got a little worse. I’m also trying to work on that and keep that consistent with my slider because I know that would give hitters a different look on breaking balls and I’m trying to get that down too.”
On recording a win in four straight appearances with the C’s.
“I guess I just got lucky being in the right position at the right time. I was very fortunate for getting those wins. Definitely the highlight was winning the championship and having that in Vancouver. That was definitely the highlight. For the guys here and the people in Vancouver, that meant a lot to them and that was awesome.”
Brody Rodning posted a record of 4-1 with a 4.60 earned run average for the C’s in 2017.
On his regular-season finale in Tri-City September 1 in which he threw a season-high five shutout innings.
“I knew we were going into the playoffs, I think that I focused up more and I could command my fastball really well that day and when I can do that, I feel like I can pitch okay at any level. Sometimes, it’s just focus and I think I focused up. My catcher (Riley Adams) was doing a great job. The defense was killing it behind me so they made it really easy to go out and pitch and just throw strikes and know the defence has got it behind you, the hitting is going to pick it up and they’re going to get hits and they’re going to get runs for you. Knowing that, it makes it a lot easier out on the mound.”
On the North Divison final series against Spokane that saw all the games played in Vancouver due to a forest fire.
“We got down to Spokane and it was so darn smoky that you could barely see in front of you. Luckily enough, we got to play them all in Vancouver and I guess there’s nothing you can really do about the weather. That was kind of a quick series too. They were close games, just coming out on top and having them at home, that was really special for us.”
On getting to pitch in Game 1 of the Northwest League final in Eugene.
“It was cool getting to get in to the playoffs. Having (manager) Rich (Miller) callng me out and having confidence in me to go out there…I let him down so that kind of hurt but getting out there was really cool. Eugene was a cool place to play.”
On when he felt the C’s had the series in hand.
“I kind of had that feeling the whole series. We played really well our first playoff game, our first series. The whole team, we did well, we pitched well, we hit well and just after those two games, I had a really good feeling. We were playing good ball, we’re meshing together and everyone wants this so when we got into the last series against Eugene, I had a really good feeling about our team.”
On getting to celebrate a championship.
“It’s always a goal to get to the dogpile. When Will was out there throwing, I was waiting. A couple of the other guys were waiting on the edge of the dugout because we knew we were close. After he struck that guy out, it was just awesome. There’s no feeling like it. I mean, you get goose bumps.
It’s almost like you black out for a moment because it’s so exciting and being able to be in the dogpile with your buddies. It’s what you worked for. You work in the off-season, you work your butt off during the season and that’s what it’s for so it was great.”
On why the C’s were so successful.
“I think (it was) our depth and we really worked well together. This was the first time playing with each other and I feel like we all got along very well. I think that honestly helped us during a long stretch. We wanted to win and we all got along so well and we became good friends and I feel like that helped us on the field.”
Brody Rodning earned his first professional win in Salem-Keizer July 23.
On being teammates with high-profile players such as Nate Pearson and Logan Warmoth.
“Being able to play with those guys, it was really awesome. Watching their skills and everything, you can learn from those guys and it was awesome playing with them. You hear a lot of big names. It was really cool. I was fortunate enough to play with them. It was an awesome experience and a lot of learning.”
On taking part in instructional league.
“Instructional league was really great because you had a lot of the big coaches. They were there for you. We were in instructional league and we were the only guys there. I feel like I got to work on a lot of things that maybe I didn’t get to work at particularly hard enough in Vancouver. I feel like it was a more of a focused practice in everything down there. We got a lot of work done for the month we were down there. We did a lot of stuff during the whole time. I feel like we also bonded as a group too so that was really important.”
On getting ready for 2018.
“It was certainly nice to get back and see the family and be with friends and stuff but I’m also excited to get back to work. I’ve been working out here conditioning. I got some buddies who also were drafted so that’s also really nice to work out with other people who are trying to accomplish the same goal.
I’ve also been an assistant basketball coach for my high school so I’ve been keeping busy with that and the kids love it and I love it and I’m just having a good time.”
On trying to make the jump to full-season ball with the Lansing Lugnuts.
“That’s the goal but whatever gets thrown my way, I’m going to just take it and whatever they tell me, I’ll do. I’m just working at it and wherever I end up, I’ll just do my best.”
My thanks again to Brody Rodning for being my first guest on C’s Chat in 2018.