‘I’m on top of the world’

first_imgLooking every bit like a kid on Christmas morning, Jimmy Rohan emerged from the home dugout Friday at Dodger Stadium with the willing smile of a 21-year-old rookie enjoying his very first taste of Major League Baseball. It was one of those dream moments that every Little Leaguer fantasizes about, but for Rohan it’s come true. The former Valencia High infielder was undrafted out of high school – Rohan thought his best sport was football and only played baseball during high school because his mother offered him $20 a week to do so – yet the baby-faced youngster has found a home with the Dodgers quicker than anyone would have expected. “I’m on top of the world right now. This feels good,” said Rohan, preparing to take batting practice a few moments before the Freeway Series opener against the Angels. “I’m pretty much just trying not to get too nervous and to approach this game like it was any other game. But that’s tough to do because I grew up watching the Dodgers. It’s quite an experience.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl event Tom Lasorda, Steve Garvey, Rick Monday and other legendary figures stood a few feet away. “I guess a kid like Jimmy Rohan dreams that one day he’ll play for the Dodgers and make it to Dodger Stadium, and this time it became a reality,” Lasorda said. “It’s got to be the greatest day of his life.” The Dodgers trim their roster after the Freeway Series, and perhaps Rohan will be back in the minor leagues for the season opener. But for now, he was soaking up the moment. His father Jim, his mother Erica Cuellar, his 12-year-old brother Jason and his high school coach Jared Snyder were in the stands lending support – they wouldn’t miss it for the world – and Rohan was doing his best not to jump out of his shiny new cleats. “If this team needs me, I’m going be there for them. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I could make it to the big leagues,” Rohan said. Rohan has made the most of his opportunities, and that’s why he’s still around. He’s batting .444 with two RBIs in nine at-bats – enough for the Dodgers’ second-youngest player to catch the eye of manager Grady Little. “Jimmy Rohan is a kid we like an awful lot. He got into some games during spring training, and he plays a lot of positions, so we told him to come on this trip,” Little said. “He’s a talented kid and he’s versatile. It’s got to be a great thrill for him to be here. When we drove up to Dodger Stadium on the bus, I kind of wondered what the young kids on the team were thinking.” Assistant coach Manny Mota can relate. As he watched Rohan take infield grounders, Mota thought back to his first major league season four decades ago – a treasured moment that still feels like yesterday. “It’s just a great experience to play at Dodger Stadium, especially when you’re surrounded by all these Hall of Fame players,” Mota said. “It’s a great feeling. I know it was a great thrill for me in 1962. Jimmy Rohan plays hard, he’s got a good swing, and he’s hungry. I like that. He’s got good work habits and he’s willing to learn. He’s a great kid.” In the eighth inning with rain beginning to fall, Rohan finally got his chance, entering as a third baseman. Sure enough, on the first pitch Michael Napoli drilled a sharp grounder his way. Rohan fielded it cleanly, hesitated for just a moment, then fired to first for the out. “It looked a little bit like I bobbled it but I just wanted to make sure I got a good grip,” Rohan said afterward. “The weird thing was I just had a gut feeling the ball was going to come my way.” Rohan was the next batter due up in the bottom of the inning, but the rain persisted and the umpires stopped the game to force a 6-6 tie. “Oh, I wanted an at-bat so I didn’t want the game to get called, but I was just happy to be here. I was trying to live it up as much as possible,” he said. “I’ve worked really hard, and when I got into the game, that was the payoff.” Growing up in North Hollywood, Rohan never imagined this dream would really happen. He was a solid but unspectacular player at Sherman Oaks Little League before breaking out for the first time as a 14-year-old, when he hit five home runs during a five-game Pony tournament at Mid-Valley. After moving to Valencia, the plan was to concentrate on football. But prodded by his mother’s weekly cash incentive, Rohan joined the frosh baseball team, then quickly moved up to JV and then varsity during his first season. “I didn’t even think I would make the frosh team, but there I was on the varsity in ninth grade,” he said. His baseball career steadily gained momentum. During his senior year in 2002, Rohan batted .500 with nine home runs and 42 RBIs – all school single-season records at the time – earning first-team All Southern Section honors. Two months later, he signed with the Dodgers as an undrafted free agent, batting .268 in 41 at-bats during his rookie season in the Gulf Coast League. Through four seasons, he’s played in Florida, Ohio, Florida again, and most recently Las Vegas. In 841 career at-bats in the minors, Rohan is batting .273 with five home runs and 90 RBIs. The plan now is for Rohan to live his life as a Major League Baseball player. He might take a while, but the kid got his first taste Friday. And oh, how sweet is was. [email protected] (661) 257-5218160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more