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For Julio Rodríguez, personal milestones aren’t as important as winning ballgames

Julio’s historic night unfortunately came with a cloud hanging over it

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Seattle Mariners Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Last night Julio Rodríguez accomplished a feat that was historic, twice-over. First, he became just the 44th member of MLB’s hallowed 30-30 club: 30 home runs and 30 steals, a rare combination of power and speed held by some of the game’s greats: names like Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds; six Hall-of-Famers and several more who will be in the HoF when their playing careers are concluded.

Second, Julio became just the fourth member to reach this club in his age-22 season or younger, joining Ronald Acuña Jr., Mike Trout, and one of his idols, Alex Rodriguez.

The accomplishment also came on a night riddled with significance for Julio, who wears #44, that might overwhelm even the most avid numerologist: #44 became the 44th member of the 30-30 club in game #144. He did so on a night where he had four hits, and did it in his fourth at-bat of the game.

And he hit his historic home run into his personal cheering squad, the J-Rod Squad, where it was caught by a sixteen-year-old fan named Zack (sixteen being four fours, for my real numerology heads out there).

It should have been a feel-good story for the ages. But postgame, Julio did not want to talk to the media.

He did so today, in a brief, ad hoc pregame session, where he acknowledged that he didn’t feel like celebrating a personal milestone, no matter how significant, in a losing effort.

“I feel like you guys know me, you know what I like to do and what I’m about whenever I step on the field. It’s tough to talk about the good things you’re doing when, collectively, we’re not doing good.”

But Julio couldn’t contain his pleasure over the significance of being the 44th player to join the club.

“It was definitely a really cool moment. And I know my family’s really happy and they definitely enjoyed it a lot.”

Julio’s mom had been dreaming of this moment, as well. Imagine if you were able to get that homer to the J-Rod Squad, she told him over the phone. And as is so often the case with Julio, imagining it was sufficient:

In exchange for the ball caught by young Zack, Julio offered a signed ball, inscribed “30-30 club,” which was all Zack had asked for, but Julio upped the ante with a signed bat, as well. “He wasn’t expecting that,” said Julio with a smile. “So I was grateful that I was able to hook him up and take care of him, because he definitely took care of me.”

Julio has interacted closely with the Mariners fanbase since he was a prospect, replying to fans on social media, doing spontaneous meet-and-greets at the team complex in Arizona, and providing content on his social channels designed to help fans get to know him better. He’s made it clear since the outset that he’s here to forge a meaningful relationship with Mariners fans, and so to be able to reach this milestone in front of the people who have supported him through the ups and downs of his young career meant a lot.

“It’s definitely been a fun ride with them. It’s shown me a lot...the people around me have been there to help me out through thick and thin, and I feel really appreciative to them because without them, I definitely wouldn’t be here right now.”

And Julio also is honored to be a member of the inner circle of the already rarefied air of the 30-30 club, along with Trout, Acuña, and Alex Rodriguez, the player who inspired him so much growing up as a force not just playing baseball, but shaping it.

“It’s definitely cool to be on the same list with someone like that, A-Rod, because I mean, he was a guy. He was that guy. So it’s cool to be on the same list with him.”

A-Rod, as Julio is quick to note, actually had a 40-40 season in 1998, an even rarer feat accomplished by just four players: Jose Canseco (1988), Barry Bonds (1996), Alfonso Siriano (2006), and the other Rodriguez. So, maybe that’s the next goal? Julio just shrugs. That’s not what his focus is right now.

“It’s always winning first for me. It’s cool, 30-30 and all that stuff. What I’m about is winning.”