To say the least, Helen Rodriguez is thrilled to be scheduled for induction in the Ebony Lifeline All-Sports Hall of Fame on Oct. 19.
“I’m surprised because it was so many years ago,” said Rodriguez, a 1973 East Side graduate. “I’m an old lady now.”
Rodriguez, will be installed for her past achievements in softball, basically as a player in the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) and community leagues.
Rodriguez recently moved to Willoughby Hills after 23 years in Lorain.
“I didn’t leave Youngstown until I was 34,” said the now-57-year-old.
Her first exposure to formal sports was as a ninth-grade basketball player in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“I was on the [school] team, but my family moved to Youngstown when I was in the 10th grade,” said the oldest of nine siblings.
As a result, Rodriguez didn’t earn a varsity letter, but, instead, she earned notoriety by writing a productive chapter in softball.
Rodriguez started making her mark locally with her church team, St. Rose de Lima (on Himrod Avenue) in the CYO league.
Some of her CYO league teammates during games at Volney Rogers and Rocky Ridge were Sonia Medina and the Esparra sisters.
As a young adult, Rodriguez played in a city slow-pitch league with the DeBartolo Corp. team.
“A.C. McCullough was our coach,” Helen said of the longtime radio disc jockey’s early days. “I played several years with them,” she said of the DeBartolo team and its practices at Pemberton Park.
“I thought we were pretty good,” said Helen, who played outfield and third base. “Defense was probably my strength. We used to have so much fun,” she said of the summer ball. “It was something to keep us active.”
Rodriguez, whose maiden name was Rivera, grew up on Shehy Avenue.
She stayed with the DeBartolo team for several years, even after her first child.
“I already had kids and was still playing, but not for much longer,” she said. “After my first son, I played another year or two, then when I was pregnant with my second son, that was it for me.”
She stepped away from the game in her mid 20s.
“I enjoyed the highs and lows with our team and I still have many photos. I remember our yellow and maroon uniforms,” she said.
Rodriguez recalled one moment.
“One time while running in the outfield I lost sight of the ball in the sun,” she said. “I tripped and fell and missed the ball. I remember hurting my knee and being carried off the field. That was so embarrassing.”
Rodriquez works for Quest Recovery Services — an agency out of Canton — as an addictions treatment manager at the Lake Erie Correctional Institution in Conneaut where she runs the treatment program.
Although Rodriguez is an East High School Hall of Fame member, her selection by Ebony Lifeline is a bonus.
“I’m shocked,” she said.