By Melissa Moore-Randall
When Donis Rodriguez moved to Revere from the Dominican Republic, he knew little about the city. However, he did know that he wanted to play baseball. “I was new to the city. I did not know where anything was. I knew no one, and I did not speak English. But that was not an obstacle for me to continue doing what I liked and that was playing baseball.” Donis, now 16 and living back in the Dominican Republic, certainly overcame all of those obstacles and is one of the newest members of the Milwaukee Brewers after signing a minor league contract with the team last week.
Donis’s journey to the MLB began at the age of four. At 7-years-old he was playing for his city’s Little League in Santiago, Dominican Republic. At nine, he moved to the United States and settled in Revere with his mom and stepfather where he attended the Susan B. Anthony Middle School.
“With the help of my stepfather, we looked for baseball leagues in the City of Revere. That is where I met Patrick Keefe who gave me the opportunity to belong to his team since the registrations had passed. That year, I played with the AAA Revere Brewers with the nine and 10 year olds. The following year I played for the Red Sox who were already one of Revere’s great teams. I had a great season, and I played with the Revere All Star team. We were a good team, and we went far that season but we got eliminated. The next season was another great year. I won the MVP and also participated in the Revere All Stars again. My favorite memory of playing in Revere was in 2018 playing for the Revere All-Star team. My home run to win the game against Arlington after we had played extra innings.”
In 2019, Rodriguez returned to the Dominican Republic primarily to play baseball. “I understood that the climate was favorable for my professional development and the position I play and because I wanted to sign with a professional team when I was 16 years old.”
However, the road to signing with the Brewers was not easy. “Since returning to the Dominican, it has been difficult. It has been hard because when I arrived in my country the other young people were more advanced than me. I had to work twice as hard to get to their level or higher. I found people who told me that I was not going to make it and for a moment I thought that they were right. But thanks to my God, who always protects me and my life that belongs to him, I trusted him with my plans and here I am.”
Donis hopes that this is just the beginning of his major league career. “My thoughts are to give all of myself to play well and put up enough numbers to reach the Major League which is my dream.” He also credits his mom as always supporting him and helping continue his dream.
Donis’s former RYBS (Revere Youth Baseball and Softball) coaches are excited about his move to the big leagues and had fond memories of him as a player and a young man.
Pat Keefe met Donis when his name came across an online registration form for RYBS (Revere Youth Baseball and Softball).
“After the official league draft, he was ineligible to play in majors so was placed in the AAA division for the season. I was coaching the Brewers (AAA team), and we needed an extra player so we added Donis. We had no idea when he showed up to the park at Gibson Field if he even knew how to hold a glove. Well clearly he was a pleasant surprise! He stayed on AAA, and the following year I was able to draft Donis with the league’s first pick. He has been a family friend since he was 10. Donis would spend lots of time at my house with my son, Patrick, and the other league boys playing video games and of course going to the many practices we had. Donis always wanted to go out, hit balls and practice.”
Keefe continued, “Donis was pretty much on the baseball journey with us moving forward including playing with me in travel ball East Cobb Expos (under Dickie Gilbride and Derek January), Boston NEAA leagues and pretty much any other baseball we could find from March-October. Donis could play anywhere but he mostly played shortstop, catcher and pitcher. He could hit the ball very far and he had extremely smooth fielding skills, and was lightning fast. For such a small frame, Donis hit many home runs not just at St. Marys but in our all star tournaments vs. elite talent. Arlington for many years was a dominant team in our Cal Ripken Division. They quickly became accustomed to facing the Revere team with plays from Donis and of course his ability to hit the ball out of the park.”
Keefe reflected on his early thoughts of Donis making a major league team. “At such a young age you can never tell because, but we knew he was certainly special. The 12-13 year old transition from little league to the larger field is a true game changer. Donis didn’t seem to have any problems with the transition. He hit from both sides with power and of course was lightning fast so he could advance bases easily.”
Keefe was a proud coach when he received a call from Donis saying he signed with the Brewers. “ He was so happy to let us know the news and it was extremely fitting since his first Revere team was the Brewers. Donis comes back occasionally and spends some time with us over Christmas, and he’s no different than when he was 3-4 years ago. Great kid, hard working and humble. Hung out in the back room and played video games just like before.”
Keefe believes it is important to create good experiences with youth sports so kids like Donis have a chance to love the game. “It’s not about making the pros or being an elite player. Donis signed up late, didn’t know anyone, barely spoke English. He could have slipped through the cracks. I remember his speech teacher Mrs Goodwin(SBA) calling me saying what an impact Revere and Revere baseball had on this kid who really didn’t have much else in the area. We collectively took the extra time not because he was good, but because he wanted it. His mom Yaseli, and his stepdad Ramon are also wonderful people who trusted us. I am so grateful we all became friends. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Donis and his family. I will be breaking out my old Brewers hat and shirt soon enough”.
Paul Nowicki was Donis’s All-Star and AAU Coach. “I have known Donis since he was 10. Donis played shortstop, pitcher, and catcher. At a young age we try to teach kids all the positions as a way to understand the game better and at that young age you just do not know which position you will be best at. Donis has a passion/love for the game. He had terrific speed as a runner and was very athletic allowing him to play many positions. He was always smiling, even when he struggled. He always wanted to play.”
When asked if he thought Donis would eventually make a professional team, Nowicki replied, “You can never anticipate any kid making a professional team at any age in any sport. However the advantages that Donis had was his passion for the game, his athletic ability and the fact he headed back to his native country (DR) which provided opportunities that put him in a good position to succeed.”
“I spoke with him a few months back and he seemed very happy about where he was, what he was doing and his decision to return to DR and to pursue his dreams and that is what matters, the team does not. My only hope is he is treated fairly, equally and given an opportunity that he clearly has earned. I can tell you Donis is a terrific young man. He and my son, PJ, are good friends and when my father passed away in 2018, he and his mom showed up to the services. He was dressed in a suit and tie and he sat with my son for the entirety of the service (4 hours). That is a special kid.”
According to the MLB, the Brewers signed 15 players from the Dominican Republic, 15 from Venezuela, and three players from Nicaragua. Sixteen are pitchers, 8 are infielders, 5 are catchers, and 4 are outfielders. Donis, who signed a four year, $142,000 contract, is the youngest player on the list. He will turn 17 on August 30th.
Donis is the son and stepson of Yaseli and Ramon Dominguez of Revere and son of Domingo Rodriguez of the Dominican Republic.