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Northwoods League baseball: Rosario swinging a big bat for Duluth Huskies this summer

All-Star catcher from the Dominican Republic has become a staple behind the plate for the Huskies.

Baseball players in white and blue uniforms playing a game at outdoor stadium
Eddy Rosario (4) of the Duluth Huskies takes his mask off in between innings against the Rochester Honkers at Wade Stadium on Wednesday, June 29, 2022, in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — The Nebraska-Omaha baseball team opened its season in February in California, taking advantage of the warmer climet, and that gave Duluth Huskies coach and California native Marcus Pointer a chance to watch the Mavericks.

Pointer liked what he saw from catcher Eduardo “Eddy” Rosario and soon made a connection.

Fast forward to this summer and that connection is paying big dividends for the Huskies.

Rosario, shortstop Kristian Campbell of Georgia Tech and right-handed pitcher Jake Christianson of Feather River College are the Huskies selections for Tuesday’s Northwoods League All-Star Game at Witter Field in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin.

“It’s exciting, for sure,” Rosario said of the All-Star nod. “You know people on the team and around the league talk about stuff like that sometimes, so I had an idea I might get selected. At the same time, I don’t think about stuff like that. I just got to go out there, play hard every day and have fun with the guys and try to help the team win.”

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Baseball players in white and blue uniforms playing a game at outdoor stadium
Eddy Rosario (4) of the Duluth Huskies catches a pitch against the Rochester Honkers at Wade Stadium on Wednesday, June 29, 2022, in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Through Thursday, Rosario was batting .336 with 29 RBIs, second on the Huskies only to Campbell’s .359 batting average and 34 RBIs.

Rosario also had eight doubles through just 30 games as he missed the early part of the season after pinching a nerve while doing squat lifts.

“Eddy was dealing with some back tightness, probably four or five games in, so we gave him a week off just understanding that it’s a long summer and we didn’t want to push him early,” Pointer said. “He’s so valuable that we wanted to make sure he’s at full strength, and now that you see him at full strength, he’s in the lineup a lot.”

Rosario, who just completed his junior year at Omaha, has taken a windy road to Duluth. He hails from the Dominican Republic capital of Santo Domingo, on the island of Hispaniola.

In the Dominican, baseball is the undisputed king, popular on the island like coffee, cocoa and cigars, beloved like Brugal rum and Presidente beer.

According to mlb.com, Dominican-born players represented 10.2% of the 2022 Opening Day rosters and inactive lists, 99 out of a pool of 975 players. Dominicans accounted for 36% of all internationally born players. Those numbers are astounding for a global sport, especially given the Dominican Republic’s population is about 10.7 million.

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“Baseball is everywhere in the Dominican Republic,” Rosario said. “It’s a passion. We’re a poor country, but baseball doesn’t require a lot of equipment. You’ll see people just playing on the street with whatever they can find. They’ll make baseballs with a sock and tape. It’s just baseball, everywhere you look.”

Bigger than even baseball in the “DR” is family, and it was Rosario’s parents who helped pave the way for the fluent English he speaks today.

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“My parents were always on top of making sure I studied English when I was a kid,” Rosario said. “I thank them for that and for all the times my dad told me to watch movies and read books in English.”

It certainly wasn’t without challenges. Rosario said he had NCAA Division I interest in Florida but his English wasn’t as good at the time and he couldn’t pass his English test. One of his buddies from the Dominican Republic had gone to Iowa Central Community College and sent a video of Rosario to Fort Dodge. Within days Rosario was on a plane to Iowa Central for a visit. He signed right away.

From there, Rosario got recruited to Nebraska-Omaha where there were multiple ties between the programs.

The next stop? The Duluth Huskies.

“(Nebraska-Omaha) third baseman Mike Boeve played here last year, so my coaches already had contacts with Marcus and some of the players,” Rosario said.

Baseball players in white and blue uniforms playing a game at outdoor stadium
Eddy Rosario (4) of the Duluth Huskies hits the ball against the Rochester Honkers at Wade Stadium on Wednesday, June 29, 2022, in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Rosario certainly isn’t alone with the Huskies. Easing the transition with his new team was the fact he was joined by three fellow Mavericks: infielders Devin Hurdle and Cam Frederick and pitcher Harrison Kreiling.

Kreiling had an impactful first half on the mound for the Huskies, going 3-1 with a 1.75 ERA and 32 strikeouts in just 25 2/3 innings, but he’s back in Omaha preparing for the fall.

Rosario, meanwhile, has become a staple behind the plate for the Huskies. His favorite player is Yadier Molina, the St. Louis Cardinals’ All-Star catcher from Puerto Rico.

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At 5-foot-10 and 205 pounds, Rosario is built in the same mold as the 5-foot-11, 225-pound Molina, but Rosario has plenty of energy despite the build. He even has a pair of stolen bases this summer.

“Eddy is non-stop,” Pointer said. “He’s always looking to get in extra work. He hits after the game, pregame, whenever he can, he’s non-stop. He lives and breathes baseball. He wanted to get the closest resemblance to minor-league baseball, to give himself a shot at it, and he’s getting that here. He is handling it well and hopefully somebody gives him an opportunity.”

What’s in a name?

If the name “Eddy Rosario” sounds familiar you’re probably thinking of former Minnesota Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario, who is now with the Atlanta Braves.

Eddie Rosario was in Duluth in January 2018 as part of the Twins’ Winter Caravan and is a native of Puerto Rico. He is known for his energy and passion for the game, not unlike the Huskies catcher of (almost) the same name.

The name “Rosario” might not be as popular as “Johnson” in the English-speaking world, but it is a popular name among Spanish-speaking families, according to babynames.net. Even so, the comparison often comes up.

“It’s fun,” Eddy Rosario said. “A lot of people mention it all the time. They’ll ask me if I am related to him, but we’re not. It would be really fun some day if I got the chance to meet him in person.”

MORE BY JON NOWACKI:
Bulldogs, picked tied for fifth in the NSIC preseason poll released Tuesday, are using subpar 2021 season as motivation for this fall.

Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at jnowacki@duluthnews.com or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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