Edwin Rodriguez traded batting gloves for boxing ones

Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Edwin Rodriguez’s first love was baseball. That should come as a surprise to absolutely no one. For a country of about 10 million, the Dominican has produced a wealth of baseball talent, like Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. Even some guys who didn’t play for the Boston Red Sox.

Edwin Rodriguez and Andre Ward

The swings Edwin Rodriguez takes now are of a decidedly more violent nature than the ones he did playing baseball.

When Edwin Rodriguez came over to the United States in 1998, he was 13 and still immersed in baseball. But the weather in Worcester, Massachusetts, isn’t exactly as forgiving a climate as it is in the Dominican. Long winters meant shorter baseball seasons.

“I remember being really cold,” Rodriguez said. “I remember thinking, ‘What am I going to do with my free time?’ A friend of my brother’s said, ‘Why don’t you try boxing?’”

At first, he did both. By his senior year of high school, Rodriguez had moved out of his natural position at shortstop to take up the tools of ignorance behind the plate as a catcher, as well as take turns in the rotation as a pitcher. He was his own battery.

“Things got more serious in boxing my senior year,” he said. “At the time I was more serious about boxing. I used to catch a whole game and go to the Golden Gloves. I’d still win, but it was a lot.”

Between taking shots in the ring, blocking balls behind the plate and the wear and tear on a pitching-and-punching arm, it got to be too much. He had to make a choice, and boxing won out.

Landing in Worcester, in the heart of Red Sox Nation, Rodriguez latched onto the home team. When he goes into the ring in Boston on May 23 to fight Craig Baker (4:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. PT on NBC), he’ll be sporting Sox-influenced trunks and a baseball jersey-esque robe, white with red trim and the Boston “B” on it.

“[The Red Sox are] a big Dominican team,” he said. “Games in Boston are a huge event. We love baseball over there. I like to go the games at least twice a year.”

He paused to consider the third-place, under-.500 squad.

“I know we’re not doing good right now, but we’re going to pick it up.”

For complete coverage of Rodriguez vs Baker, check out our fight page.

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