Brady Rodgers’ Wife Explains His Baseball Journey

Brady Rodgers’ Wife Explains His Baseball Journey

Just as we did a few weeks ago, we take a look at a minor league journey through the eyes of a minor league player’s wife. This time it is about a local product, Brady Rodgers.

Story from Virginia Davis Rodgers

High dollar contracts, large endorsement deals, nice cars, and a generally lavish lifestyle. All common misconceptions of life in baseball. No job, follows her husband around, goes shopping in excess, and gets dolled up for every baseball game. All common misconceptions about baseball wives and girlfriends. Although I cannot speak for everyone involved in the baseball world, these misconceptions could not be any further from the truth for myself and Brady.

Brady and I met our freshman year in college at Arizona State University. I was a loud, blonde, sorority girl and he was a {super} skinny, shy, baseball player from Richmond, TX. Brady and one of his childhood friends, Katy, had both decided to come to ASU. Katy just so happened to join the same sorority as me and we instantly became best friends. I have Katy to thank for introducing me to Brady, even though I had no interest in him romantically until our sophomore year.

Brady and I could never seem to get on the same page in college. Freshman year, he liked me, and I was oblivious. Sophomore year, I liked him, and he wasn’t interested. Junior year, something must have clicked, because we both decided it was time to give it a go and he asked me to watch “The Notebook” with him on Valentine’s Day. I know, I know….so smooth, right?? Well, the rest is history as they say! Now he is stuck with me forever.

It wasn’t until we started dating in March of our junior year that I realized Brady would probably be leaving ASU soon to enter the baseball draft. Fast forward 3 months and we were sitting in his family’s living room in Texas surrounded by his closest family and friends, listening to his name be called as the 96th overall pick in the 2012 draft to, you guessed it, the Houston Astros!

I don’t think I realized that day the true sentimental meaning of Brady being drafted by his hometown team. I mean, how many guys can say they were professionally drafted by the team they grew up idolizing all of their lives? Let’s just say there were definitely tears in Brady’s eyes that day. “Surreal” doesn’t even begin to cover it. I think Brady might have set some sort of record for signing his contract within 24 hours of being drafted. He couldn’t get to Minute Maid fast enough to sign that dang thing!

After the initial celebration, it finally hit me that I now had to say goodbye to Brady and we were going to have to figure out this whole long-distance relationship thing. I left Texas to go back to ASU and finish school, and Brady took off for short season ball in New York with the Tri-City ValleyCats for a few months. In Tri-City, the guys are essentially housed in team apartments since they are only there for a short amount of time. Brady had a pretty good season with the Valleycats and went 7-2 with a 2.89 ERA in 12 games. When I got to visit him in Tri-City, it fell over a period where they had a couple of days off and we took the train into New York City and stayed in Times Square for a couple of days, which was really fun! It was Brady’s first and only visit so far to The Big City! That year in December of 2012, I graduated early and a couple of months later I moved to Texas to be closer to Brady.

Typing that statement “to be closer to Brady” actually just made me laugh out loud. Of the two and a half years that we have been married, we have been apart for over half of them. I clearly had a lot to learn about the baseball life at that point. Through short season in Tri-City, Hi-A in Lancaster, AA in Corpus, and AAA in Fresno, I have stayed home in Texas and worked while Brady was in season. Every couple does this part differently. As the minor league levels get higher, you see more wives that travel with their husbands and it’s hard for me to not get jealous of that luxury they have. But, for us, me staying back and working was what made sense if we wanted to eventually buy a house, which we were able to do last off season.

In 2013, Brady was fortunate enough to be promoted from short season Tri-City to Hi-A in Lancaster, CA. I was working retail at the time so I was able to visit a couple of times that year for a week at a time. In Lancaster, they didn’t have host families, they had “sponsors”. Brady got lucky and had the most amazing sponsors there who did generous things like take Brady to dinner, buy him groceries, and even housed Brady’s parents when they came to visit (this was all above and beyond the call of duty). Seriously, they were rock stars.

Lancaster was a tough season for Brady and he went 10-8 with a 5.38 ERA in 27 games for them. The California League is tough for pitchers and people almost somewhat expect pitchers ERA’s to be higher than usual there, but it was not something that settled well with Brady. He is always his own toughest critic. His first half of the season was much better than the second half, and because of his strong start to season, he was named to the All-Star team that year and started the All-Star game in San Jose, which his parents and I were able to attend!

In 2014, Brady was promoted once again to AA Corpus Christi. HALLELUJAH!!! As he moved up to AA, things got a little easier because I was only a 2.5 hour drive away. I would visit every weekend that they had a home stand. Brady had a great host dad there (shoutout to Jed) that was really cool and didn’t mind me staying there with Brady when I visited. I loved Corpus for that reason (and the people)! I got to meet a lot of the other wives and girlfriends on my frequent trips, so this season really stands out to me as my personal favorite.

Brady would disagree, because he went 5-12 with a 4.77 ERA in 26 games that season. In both Hi-A and AA, the Astros were on the tandem pitching system, so Brady would alternate between starting and relieving each appearance, which was a major adjustment. This particular year I think the most positive influences on Brady were the pitching coach, Doug Brocail and the chaplain, Greg Blankenship. Brocail really believed in Brady and I know Brady took everything to heart that Doug had to say. I think this was also the season that Brady grew the most as a person and in his faith, thanks to Greg. It set him up for a positive mindset for his next home, the Fresno Grizzlies.

In 2015, Brady was promoted again to Fresno and has spent the past 2 seasons in AAA where we started my regularly scheduled visits every 6-8 weeks. In AAA, you exchange 12 hour bus rides during the night for 3 am and 4 am wake up calls to catch early morning flights. Those are fun when you have to play a game that same day!!!! Brady’s first season in Fresno he went 9-7 with a 4.51 ERA in 21 games. This isn’t TOO bad for a starting pitcher in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, but Brady still wasn’t satisfied. All in all, his team won the Pacific Coast League Championship that year, which was very exciting!

He worked his tail off that off-season with Jeremy Booth of Program 15 and came back the next season to Fresno and went 12-4 with a 2.86 ERA in 22 games. It was like night and day compared to his previous seasons. He pitched 2 complete games in his 2016 season, one being a 7 inning double-header and one of which was termed a “Maddux” because he only needed 86 pitches and less than 2 hours to complete the game, giving up only 4 hits and zero runs. He was named to the AAA All-Star team that year and was blessed to be named the starting pitcher of the All-Star game, which my family was able to attend since it was in my home state of North Carolina.

In 2016, in an effort to save money because we had bought a house before he left for season, he started asking around to find a family that would host him so he didn’t have to pay apartment rent and bills during the season. I have to mention a couple of amazing Grizzlies fans here, Dave and Rhett, who treated Brady like a family member and put him in contact with his future host parents for that season. Enter Dan and Milana, two of the most die-hard Grizzlies fans you will ever meet, and the best host parents to Brady! After spending the season living with them, I told Brady he wouldn’t even want to come home because Dan and Milana spoiled him so much!! We owe so much to them!!

I have a great job and every 6-8 weeks I take off a day or two and take an extended weekend trip to visit Brady during season. This is definitely a baseball perk. Getting to travel and meet your husband in various fun cities across the country and experience new places together is most certainly a positive to this crazy life. I think for us, we have mastered the art of the long-distance relationship because we have a solid foundation for our relationship built on our faith in God. Don’t get me wrong, Brady and I have learned a lot about good communication and trust through this process. But, I think the time apart allows us to miss each other, so when we do finally see each other, it feels so exciting and almost new. And, let’s be honest, the time apart allows us to not drive each other crazy!

Most of our conversations during season just consist of me asking him a bunch of questions, which has given me more insight into the world of minor league baseball. In the lower levels of the minor leagues, “the struggle is real” as they say. 12 hour bus rides through the middle of the night and having to pitch the next day. Making less than $10,000 a year. Having to get an off season job working at Academy, a sporting goods store in Texas, to make extra money in the off season. That’s why I needed to stay home and work. That’s what spouses are supposed to do – sacrifice so that their partner can live out their dream. It was a no-brainer for me.

If baseball isn’t already exciting enough, there is always the looming worry that you could get traded, released, or have a career-ending injury. Sounds fun, right? Brady is very much a person that doesn’t let those possibilities even enter his head. He would say he is just determined while others would just call it stubborn. We have a joke that anyone and everyone that Brady becomes really close with or becomes roommates with, always ends up being traded or released. Every. Single. Time. (Watch out A.J. Reed…with Brady’s track record, you’re next!) 😉

What they don’t prepare you for in the minor leagues is the housing aspect. In AA, there are host families (aka- life savers). In Hi-A and AAA they put you up for 3 nights in a hotel when you first get there and after that you are on your own and have to find your own living accommodations. On very little money. At a place that is ok with you needing a short term lease. Which has no furniture. Sounds easy, right? We are talking 3-4 guys staying in a one bedroom apartment sleeping on air mattresses in the kitchen and living room. So glamorous!!!

The daily grind in the minor leagues is very repetitive. They normally sleep in late because they have been traveling or up late finishing a game the night before. Brady normally gets to the field about 5 hours before game time and doesn’t get “home” until 11 or 12 at night. Then he normally plays some Play Station to unwind and goes to bed and wakes up and does it all over again. You find a schedule that works for you and your respective position and you stick to it.

Baseball does not come without struggle. As a pitcher, Brady had heard bad things about both the California League and the Pacific Coast League. They are definitely hitters leagues, which are a pitchers nightmare. Brady struggled in Lancaster and it was hard at first learning how to best support him through those situations. I couldn’t exactly be like “ok so, to so-and-so batter you should have thrown a slider with that 2-2 count” because #1) I had no idea what I was talking about when it came to the intricate details of baseball, #2) Brady relied on me to be his escape from all things baseball, and #3) he probably would have laughed in my face.

I would always remind him that tomorrow is a new day and he will wake up with a new opportunity. I think there are certain things in life that draw you closer to God and make you more secure in your faith, and those tough outings in baseball have been that for Brady. I have seen him grow so much over these past 5 seasons and he really has embraced the journey and the plan that God has laid out for him. That doesn’t mean we haven’t questioned the process a time or two, but hey, we aren’t perfect.

With the bad times though, come the good times, and man are they good! When Brady was in Hi-A, he got the opportunity to spot start for both AA and AAA. Those are phone calls that are not easy to forget because I could hear the childlike excitement in his voice and it reminds you why all of this sacrifice is worth it. I know he took both of those opportunities to heart and made the most of them. He tends to be quiet in the locker room – I think so he can listen and learn to what’s going on around him, especially when he has a chance to be around guys in higher levels than him. When he had his spot start in AAA, he had a layover in Houston and I drove an hour to see him for 45 minutes and then turned around and drove back home. You take what you can get. I just wanted to see him in person and congratulate him and tell him good luck.

What makes things easier through all of this craziness are the people. The people in the cities that these guys play in, the people that you meet along this journey. They also make it worth it. We still stay in touch with Brady’s sponsors from Hi-A, his host family from Corpus, the chaplains that perform bible study for the guys at each level, and his host family from Fresno. For those that don’t know, Fresno is not a city that does host families. Brady built relationships with fans and locals and hit it off with one couple in particular that offered to host him in AAA. That just shows what kind of guy he is. He truly immerses himself in the city he plays in, whether it’s with the fans or community involvement. Dan and Milana, his Fresno hosts were a blessing and even made it out for Brady’s major league debut in addition to his hosts from Hi-A, Dave and Christine. These people become part of your family. They share along in this journey with you and are just as invested as your real family. It’s hard to forget them and what they did for you when you had practically nothing.

Then finally, something I’ve prayed about, hoped for, and dreamt of for years came to life this past season. Brady got “the call”. The Grizzlies had played a long, extra inning game in Tacoma and after it ended, his coach called a meeting and told Brady it was his time. He was getting his September call up. It was 1am West Coast time when he found out. So my phone rang a little after 3am Texas time. I was half asleep and delirious and was supposed to get on a flight later that day to go visit him for their last series in Sacramento.

I should know better than to make plans in this crazy baseball life, because somehow it always finds a way to slap you in the face and remind you that you can’t control it, it controls you. Brady said four little words on the other end of the phone that night – “We did it baby”. Thinking back on that now I’m getting teary eyed. Not “I” did it, but “WE” did it. If that doesn’t make you smile inside, then I don’t know what will. That right there made the distance, the tears, the sacrifice, all worth it. It really was a team effort and to hear him say “we” did it made me realize he appreciated the sacrifices I made to support him in achieving his dream.

So, I called Southwest, cancelled my flight to Sacramento, called into work, and packed up the car to drive to Arlington with his whole family for Brady’s Major League debut against the Rangers. As I’m sure you can imagine, there were lots of hugs, tears, and pictures taken to memorialize the day. Although his debut did not go as he had hoped, he used every day to learn and get better and observe the veteran guys in their element. It made him even hungrier to be there full time with the team. With Spring Training kicking off, where Brady will start the season is still up in the air, but I know one thing. No one can stop him.

The transition from minor leagues to major leagues was scary for me. You’re going into a tight-knit group of women, couples, and families and you aren’t sure how they will perceive you. Well, let me tell you, I stressed out for no reason at all. We could not have gotten a more warm welcome than we did from Brady’s Astros teammates and their wives. Even during the off season, a bunch of us would get together and have game nights and the guys would play golf together and we would have dinner parties and watch football all together. It felt like a family. And we were so blessed and honored to be a part of it. All of these guys have come up through the same system. They know they grind, they know the sacrifice. There is a mutual respect there and it feeds their tight-knit brotherhood.

I know one thing for sure, no matter where Brady spends this upcoming season, I have one very supportive and strong group of baseball women to get me through any ups and downs. These ladies are full time moms, full time personal assistants to their husbands, expert packers and movers, ticket managers, number one fans, and overall support systems for their other half. We are all women who want to see our men succeed, who want to lead as normal a life as baseball will allow, and who cherish off season to no end. Brady and I use our off season to spend some time at his families property in Weimar hunting and fishing, seeing friends and family, and traveling for pleasure whenever possible. This is a life that makes you plan everything around a season – weddings, babies, moving, you name it. So when you get 4 solid, uninterrupted months with your husband, you make the most of it.

Who knows what Brady’s future will bring, what teams he will play for, what opportunities he will have, but one thing is for certain. You have to enjoy this ride. It is your ride and no one else’s. You can’t compare your journey to others and you just have to trust in God’s plan. But for now, we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but here – with our family that is the Houston Astros.

Thanks again to Virginia for putting together this great piece!

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**Photo Credit: Jayne Hansen and Kiel Maddox**

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