All-Star Rookie Julio Rodriguez Opens Up About His Journey to the MLB: 'Just Keep Grinding, Man'

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ackie Robinson Day, Opening Day, Batting Practice, Julio Rodriguez
ackie Robinson Day, Opening Day, Batting Practice, Julio Rodriguez

Scott Eklund/Seattle Mariners Julio Rodriguez

Seattle Mariners center fielder Julio Rodriguez will make his MLB All-Star debut this month at just 21 years old — a rarity, and he's currently the second youngest player in the league. But that doesn't intimidate the all-star athlete.

"I just feel like there's not a certain age to compete," Rodriguez tells PEOPLE.

"That's way I view it," the Mariners rookie continues. "There's no age rule that prohibits you from compete, so I feel like I've never been afraid of be the youngest guy or one of the few youngest guys in the league or whatever I'm playing."

Rodriguez's All-Star selection makes him just the sixth rookie in franchise history to be named to the Midsummer Classic, and the first rookie position player since Ichiro Suzuki in 2001, the MLB reported.

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Rodriguez started playing baseball as a kid growing up in Loma de Cabrera, a city in the Dominican Republic with a population of around 20,000 people. "It was really cool growing up over there," Rodriguez says.

"I definitely had a lot of energy as a kid," he continues. "I feel like I grew up running around my neighborhood with my friends, playing baseball on the streets, all kinds of games. Honestly, I feel like that's something about the DR that I feel like kids play a lot outside, so I feel like that was my childhood."

Julio Rodriguez #44 of the Seattle Mariners at bat against the Tampa Bay Rays during the fourth inning at T-Mobile Park on May 06, 2022 in Seattle, Washington.
Julio Rodriguez #44 of the Seattle Mariners at bat against the Tampa Bay Rays during the fourth inning at T-Mobile Park on May 06, 2022 in Seattle, Washington.

Abbie Parr/Getty Julio Rodriguez

As a kid, Rodriguez says he admired Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz and Ichiro Suzuki, among others.

Rodriguez has always been ahead of the curve. He was signed to the Mariners in 2017, when he was just 16 years old. He competed for the Dominican Summer League Mariners until his debut in Seattle this season.

Now an All-Star select in his rookie season, Rodriguez is feeling better than ever. "I feel like I've always been put in spots like that, but I feel pretty confident. I just go out there and compete every day," he says.

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Rodriguez adds, "It doesn't matter who it is, doesn't matter how old the person that is against me is. I just feel like I'm always just going to go and give my best and compete against them and try to help the team win. I feel that's the only way I view it."

Looking back, the young star is proud of his path to the league. Given the opportunity to give his younger self some advice, Rodriguez says he'd say, "Just keep grinding, man. This is a tough role. I feel like you obviously have to stay consistent, keep grinding all the time."

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Rodriguez's dedication to his Seattle team has made him an instant fan favorite with Mariners fans, and the feeling is mutual for the athlete.

"I love the Seattle fans, honestly," he says. "They always show me love every time I step on the field, so they made me feel really special every time, every time."

The 2022 MLB All-Star Game airs July 19 live on FOX.