Miguel Rojas didn’t watch a lick of American football while growing up in Venezuela because, well, it simply wasn’t shown there.
But the backup infielder for the Miami Marlins shockingly won the team’s fantasy football title, much to the humiliation of his red-faced teammates.
“It’s embarrassing,” said Marlins pitcher Tom Koehler. “Entering the season he knew four NFL players, and three of them had been retired for five years.”
Even though his football knowledge was limited, the 27-year-old Rojas -- one of the most upbeat and engaging players on the Marlins -- begged his teammates to let him join their NFL fantasy league when they began drafting players toward the end of the baseball season in September.
Reluctantly, they let him in, but only as part of an existing team that included third baseman (and fellow Venezuelan) Martin Prado, and athletic trainer Dustin Luepker.
“I didn’t know anything other than a couple of rules,” Rojas said of his football expertise. “I knew about the touchdown. I knew about the field goal. But I didn’t know anything about the players. That was the most challenging part for me, knowing the players.”
Rojas said he received quite a bit of help from Luepker in that department. Once the NFL season started, he became addicted.
When he returned to Venezuela to play winter ball, he was unable to watch any NFL games on television. But he followed the scores on his phone app -- even during his baseball games.
“Sundays we played at 1 o’clock,” he said. “So I was going to the bathroom between innings to check the scores on my phone. Sometimes I couldn’t concentrate (on baseball) because I was thinking football.”
Rojas became so involved that he printed up T-shirts for himself, Prado and Luepker. The front reads “The Tres Amigos.” The back shows an animated taco wearing a sombrero because Rojas said “everybody thinks I’m Mexican.”
As the wins mounted for the “Tres Amigos,” Rojas began rubbing it in.
“We had a chat group online, and I was talking trash the whole time,” Rojas said.
The other participants -- Christian Yelich, Justin Bour, Jeff Mathis, Kyle Barraclough and others -- endured Rojas’ bragging.
Said Koehler: “If losing to him wasn’t bad enough every Sunday, my phone was flooded with Spanglish trash talk. I am not looking forward to seeing him when spring starts. I can’t begin to imagine how much trash he will talk when we are all there.”
Spring training starts next month, and Rojas said he intends to continue the verbal assault the first day of workouts.
“We got a trophy for winning, and it’s really nice,” Rojas said. “For all the (garbage) they talk about me and my team, I’m going to take the trophy with me to the field and show everybody I won the fantasy league.”