Sean Rodriguez was the big hero for the Pittsburgh Pirates Sunday as they topped the San Diego Padres.

It’s hard to truly imagine what Sean Rodriguez has gone through this year. After signing a two-year deal with the Atlanta Braves and saying goodbye to the city of Pittsburgh and a Pirates team he was a member of for two seasons, Rodriguez, his wife Giselle and their two young children, were involved in a car accident after they were t-boned by a man who had stolen a police officer’s cruiser in Miami.

While the man who hit the Rodriguez family was killed in the accident, Rodriguez, his wife and his two children survived. But it wasn’t without injuries.

Giselle sustained a broken tibia, fibula and needed surgery on her wrist while Rodriguez’s children were hospitalized for a short period before being released. Rodriguez, who was the driver, was also injured, requiring shoulder surgery that kept him off the field for the first three and a half months of the season.

Rodriguez returned to the diamond for the Braves in mid-July and struggled in only 37 at-bats, hitting .162. Despite his short-term struggles, which were understandable given the circumstances regarding the crash, Rodriguez returned home Sunday.

After the Pirates reacquired Rodriguez from the Braves in exchange for catching prospect Connor Joe Saturday, Rodriguez was given 72 hours to report to Pittsburgh where the Bucs were playing the Padres.

That was simply too much time for Rodriguez to wait.

Instead, the 32-year old super utility man, who has become a fan favorite in Pittsburgh, reported in less than 24. He was on the Pirates bench Sunday, but did not get the start.

However, he entered the game to a loud ovation in the top of the eighth inning to play second base. Rodriguez had his first at-bat since coming back to Pittsburgh in the bottom of the ninth inning, but grounded out to the shortstop to end the inning.

After a few scoreless frames, Rodriguez went back to the plate to lead off the 12th inning. While something inside of me said Rodriguez was about to do something truly amazing, it was hard to believe the story could be written so perfectly. I mean, it seemed like his return to the team was enough of a good story. Some, however, were much more confident that Rodriguez was bound for a special moment Sunday afternoon.

While it was seen as being too good to be true, Rodriguez followed the perfectly written script. He blasted a 1-1 pitch from Padres reliever Buddy Baumann in to the left field seats to give the Pirates the 5-4 walkoff victory, sending play-by-play announcer Greg Brown into a frenzy.

In his post game interview with AT&T Sports Net’s Robby Incmikoski, Rodriguez couldn’t keep the smile off of his face. He simply couldn’t believe what had just occurred.

“That’s something only god can explain,” Rodriguez told Incmikoski in front of a crowd full of excited Pirates fans at PNC Park.

Rodriguez deserved to have his “unbelievable” moment that couldn’t have been scripted any better. Not only because of what he had to go through when he and his family were involved in that January car accident or because he missed the first few months of the season, but because of the joy surrounding his return to Pittsburgh.

The joy was well spread through the Pirates locker room and fan base. Before the game, Andrew McCutchen was one of the many players happy to see the man known as “Serpico” back in the Pirates clubhouse.

After he hit his walkoff home run, Rodriguez was mauled at home plate, where you could see the joy on his teammates faces as you heard them each yell, “Welcome Back!”

Not to mention the reaction the Pirates fans had before and after his blast in to the left field seats. As I said before, the applause was impressive when he entered the game as a defensive replacement, but it got a whole lot louder following the game.

“I love it here in Pittsburgh,” Rodriguez said after the game. “Look at this passion. I’m no all-star, my career numbers aren’t the best. I came out here in this game and this crowd was unbelievable, showing me love.”

Showing love to Rodriguez is something Pirates fans have always done. Yes, he is no hall of famer or all-star, but Rodriguez has provided some big moments for Pirates fans to cheer about including the latest one he provided yesterday.

From the two years he wore the Pirates uniform to early this year when he was in his car accident as a member of the Braves, Pirates fans have always respected and wished Rodriguez the best.

After the game, the veteran said the well wishes and tweets he got from Pirates fans and staff after his accident made him feel like he was “still a part of the Pirates.”

Pirates fans and players alike are thrilled to have Rodriguez back in a Bucco uniform. Not only because of the player he is and the impact he has on the baseball field as a versatile player, but because of the person he is and the energy he brings to the Pirates clubhouse.

The reacquisition of S-Rod means more than just his play on the field. He is a loved teammate and player whose addition could possibly spark this Pirates team to finish the season strong, playoffs or not.

With all that has happened to Rodriguez this year, you can’t help but cheer for him to succeed. You have to cheer for his family as well. The Rodriguez clan is clearly strong and it’s nice to welcome them back to the city of Pittsburgh, but more importantly, it’s a pleasure to welcome them back home, where they belong and where they have always belonged.

Image credit – Daniel Decker Photography

Jose Negron

Jose Negron is a 22 year old journalist from the North Huntingdon area. A recent graduate of California University of Pennsylvania, Jose has written for Rumbunter and Pirates Breakdown for the past year. He is the former Editor in Chief and Sports Editor of Cal U's campus newspaper, the Cal Times. He also covers high school sports for the Mon Valley Independent and serves as a contributor for Pittsburgh Sporting News, covering the Pirates. During the summer of 2015, he also interned with TribLive Radio, writing for their online blog, helping in the production of various radio shows and even appearing on the air.