Ever since Miguel Rojas could pick up a baseball, his grandparents were there to make sure he could develop into the player he is today.
Rojas, one of the most fun-loving members of the Marlins clubhouse, often joking with teammates, is enjoying every minute of his experience as a major league shortstop.
But he never forgets who helped him along the way.
“My grandparents were the first ones to take me to baseball games growing up,” said Rojas, who was born in Los Teques, Venezuela.
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Rojas will go by “Miggy Ro” next month during the weekend of August 25-27, when Marlins players and coaches wear alternate aqua blue and orange jerseys with nicknames instead of last names on their backs as part of Players Weekend. It’s a first-year event by Major League Baseball meant to salute youth baseball.
Rojas’ nickname, which caught on during the spring of 2015 when he first joined the Marlins, is similar to the famous nickname of one of Rojas’ countrymen and favorite players, Miguel Cabrera, the first two letters of his last name distinguish it as his own.
But players like Rojas will also wear special patches on their sleeves with words or names that salute those who played a key part in advancing their careers.
Dee Gordon will wear “Varis Strange” as his nickname. The first name is variation of his proper first name, Devaris, with Strange being his late mother’s maiden name.
Christian Yelich, who will go by “Yeli,” and Tyler Moore, who will go by “T-Mo,” will each wear patches honoring their mothers.
For Rojas, the patches will have meaning beyond family.
Rojas plans to wear a different patch for each game starting with one that says “Abuelos,” which means "grandparents” in Spanish, in honor of his grandparents Norma and Rafael. His grandmother passed away during this past spring training. Rojas’ mother is a doctor and his father, a professor. He said his grandparents helped them as they supported Rojas while balancing those careers.
Rojas said he will honor his family with one of the other patches, and will wear a third pratch for the people of Venezuela, which is currently in the midst of ongoing political strife.
“This event is very special because it represents people that meant a lot to you and played a big part in helping us become major league baseball players,” Rojas said. “So I felt what better way to show my appreciation to them.”
▪ Marcell Ozuna will wear “Big Bear” after his popular nickname, “oso” or “bear” in Spanish.
But the Marlins will also have a “unicorn.”
▪ Brad Ziegler picked up that nickname in his first spring training with the Marlins last March due to his often pitching out of sight on the back fields in Jupiter instead of in actual games.
“I didn’t start pitching in games until the second week of March and more than half of my pitching was on the back fields [in Jupiter],” Ziegler said. “So the team kind of looked at me like this mythical creature not knowing if I even really exist.”
▪ A.J. Ellis will go by “Dad,” since he, as fellow catcher J.T. Realmuto said, “makes sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing at all times.”
▪ Justin Bour will use “Papito,” a nickname Rojas gave him earlier this season, which means “Little Daddy.”
“I told him with the Latin community in Miami, I think that nickname is going to be really good for you,” Rojas said.
▪ Marlins’ infield coach Perry Hill will wear “Bone,” a nickname he’s been known for since his youth growing up in Hurst, Texas, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Hill said it originated from his penchant for eating fried chicken drumsticks as a kid.
“Back then, you were required to take your plate and walk it to the sink,” Hill said. “So I’d excuse myself, put my plate in the sink and I’d take the chicken bone and start walking around.”
▪ Giancarlo Stanton will keep it simple and use “Cruz,” which is part of his middle name, Cruz-Michael.
▪ Jose Urena will go by “El Nueve” or “The Nine,” referring to a greeting used by kids in the Dominican Republic as a way to say hello.
▪ Thursday: Marlins RHP Dan Straily (7-8, 3.77 ERA) vs. Washington Nationals RHP Tanner Roark (9-7, 4.82), 7:05 p.m., Nationals Park.
▪ Friday: Marlins RHP Jose Urena (10-5, 3.70 ERA) vs. Colorado Rockies RHP Jon Gray (4-2, 4.94), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.