Can you "smell" what the "Rock" is cooking?
Yes, it's Rougned Odor vs. Rock Shoulders in the Minors Moniker Madness final -- a spectacularly named pair of young ballplayers who, between them, have spent less time on this planet than recent Binghamton Mets acquisition C.J. Nitkowski (age 39). The polls are open and the victor will win the coveted honor of having the best name in all of Minor League Baseball. But before participating in this crucial democratic exercise, please take a moment to get to know the contestants.
Odor, an 18-year-old shortstop, signed with the Rangers as a free agent on Jan. 1, 2011, and spent that season with the Northwest League's Spokane Indians. He's currently suiting up for Class A Hickory, where he's hitting .266 with eight home runs and 39 RBIs over 86 games.
Shoulders was selected by the Cubs in the 25th round of the 2011 Draft. A big and broad-shouldered (of course) first baseman with power potential, he's playing for the Northwest League's Boise Hawks.
Still only 18, this marks Odor's second year in the tournament. Last year, the native of Venezuela entered as a No. 1 seed in the Farmer Works Bracket and made it to the semifinals before being dispatched by eventual champion Seth Schwindenhammer. Odor took the time to speak about the contest on Friday afternoon, with Crawdads coach Humberto Miranda serving as a translator.
"This is exciting, that I have one of the most unique names in the Minors," said Odor, who defeated Nicholas Baligod, Stolmy Pimentel, Zelous Wheeler, Boss Moanaroa and Tuffy Gosewisch en route to the final. "And it's one of the strangest names, too."
Strange to Americans, at least.
Odor reports that his first name (pronounced "Roo-nyed") runs in the family as it was bestowed upon him by his grandmother and grandfather. And as for Odor?
"It doesn't mean anything in Spanish," he said.
Odor said that his friends and family back home in Venezuela are spreading the word about his Minors Moniker Madness candidacy, which is good because he'll need all of the help he can get. For Shoulders has proven to be a veritable powerhouse in this, his first year in the tournament.
A Florida native, the No. 4 seed in the Farmer Works bracket has breezed past an extremely formidable array of Minor League names: Ronnier Mustelier, Goose Kallunki, Duke von Schamann, Scooter Gennett and, finally, Caleb Bushyhead.
Now, all Shoulders needs to do is get past a lingering Odor. For his part, he thinks he can.
"Not to sound cocky, but I think I've already beaten some better ones than that," Shoulders said. "When I was going up against Goose, [the Hawks] played against him in Eugene and he got on first base. So we were messing around, having some fun with it. I was like, 'We're going to beat you tonight and I'm going to beat you in Minors Moniker Madness.'"
Such light-hearted trash talk is part of Shoulders' deeply competitive personality, as he said that "anything I do, I want to win. We can be racing down the hallway and I want to be in first. So, silly as it may be, I want to say that I have the best name in Minor League Baseball."
And as for that name? Shoulders' given first name is "Roderick" and he said that his nickname originated because the mother of one of his childhood friends "couldn't say the name right; she dropped a few letters and it turned into Rock."
And Rock stuck. Everyone, including his parents, calls him that now, and he remarked that he's considered having it officially changed. The name certainly has been a hit in Boise, with frequent calls of "Rock!" emanating from the stands and even the occasional request from fans to have him sign their shoulders. ("I don't mind, I get a kick out of it," he said).
So it's come down to this: Odor vs. Shoulders.
Both players are below the legal drinking age, and Shoulders said that if he wins he'll celebrate by "spraying some Coca-Cola, like it was champagne."
Odor, for his part, has a simple message for his fans.
"Keep voting for me. I will win this thing!"