JUPITER, Fla. — The uniqueness of their situation didn't fully hit Sean and Robert Rodríguez until the latter threw batting practice to his younger brother on a back field at the Marlins' Spring Training complex.
Sean Rodríguez, 34, is a 12-year veteran who was in Marlins camp as a non-roster invite. Robert, 39, is Miami's new assistant hitting coach. Their father, Johnny, is a Minor League roving infield instructor for the Cardinals, who share the Jupiter complex with the Marlins.
"'Man, we're together in the big leagues right now,'" Robert remembers Sean telling him in February. "Guys around, they ask, 'How does it feel? It has to be the coolest thing.' Words can't describe it. Again, it's just blessed. How many brothers and how many dads that have sons in the game get to say they coached and they played? It's awesome."
It's not common, that's for sure. Recent examples include the Molina brothers working together in 2013, when Yadier's older brother, Bengie, served as the club's assistant hitting coach. There was also the three-year span from '06-08 when Hall of Fame closer Trevor Hoffman put on the same uniform as older brother, Glenn, the Padres' third-base coach.
Nearly 100 sets of siblings have been teammates, including the Solanos (Donovan and Jhonatan) for a short period in 2015 with the Marlins. Brothers facing off in a Major League game happened as recently as last season, when then-Marlins reliever Brian Moran struck out his younger brother, Colin, in his Major League debut.
But because of a four-year age gap, the Rodríguez brothers never got to play high school baseball together. Though Sean has seen his share of big league camps, Robert was experiencing his first after being promoted from the Triple-A coaching staff.
Both felt there wasn't much need for an adjustment period with the player/coach dynamic this spring. Sean and Robert train together with their father during the offseason in Tampa, Fla., where the entire family lives within a two-mile radius.
No one shies away from providing feedback. And there is no sugarcoating. Robert's scouting report on Sean includes (aside from his MLB toolset and consistency) intangibles like being a "fierce competitor" with a "305 edge," a nod to Miami's area code.
"In a baseball atmosphere, [it's] very professional," Sean said of the relationship. "You'd be surprised. I think we're harder on each other than anybody else. The demand is higher for us with one another just because we try to push each other, we try to take each other to an ultimate level that neither one of us thinks we can get to, then get there."
One thing's for certain: It's a dream come true, magnified by the fact the pair grew up in Miami. Johnny was a coach in the Marlins' organization from 2002-08 before joining the Cardinals in '09.
Sean has fond memories of youth baseball games at Flagami Park during the Marlins' inaugural season in 1993. He would run to the concession stand to see whether he could get a baseball card of Charlie Hough's first pitch.
"To do it for Miami? Shoot," Sean said. "It's surreal. You always sit there and say, 'It would be cool to play for the hometown team,' but having grown up watching them — my dad coached for the Marlins for a long time back through the '03 World Series — it's pretty cool."
Before Spring Training began, his mother shared a photo of the trio — Sean, Johnny and Robert — wearing Marlins uniforms on the field in Brevard County toward the end of camp in 2002. Sean was still in high school. Robert was in junior college.
"I get choked up even now talking about it," Robert said. "My mom was always the one that said, 'Hey, it's going to happen. You've just got to believe,' and stuff like that."
While their mother inspired hope, Johnny, a longtime Double-A manager in the Cardinals' organization, instilled the importance of discipline and putting forth the best effort in order to prolong his sons' playing and coaching careers.
When Johnny reported to Cardinals camp in early March (before Spring Training halted due to the coronavirus pandemic), the Rodríguezes reunited. They already shared daily texts — ranging from family to baseball strategy (but never about their organizations). There were dinners with the grandkids.
"If it's the Lord's will and they stay together, it would be beautiful, just thinking of that dream," Johnny said. "It's a dream. [Sean] being in the big leagues that long, it's a dream. Robert playing as a Minor League player, then going ahead and within four years he's on the big league staff, seeing that and now they're both together…
"Wait a minute, hold on, we're at Roger Dean [Chevrolet Stadium] and I'm here, and they're both here? What're the odds of three Rodríguezes in the same complex and two on the same Major League team? It's a miracle."