The odds were stacked against Josh Rojas from the moment he turned pro.
Following his senior season at the University of Hawaii, Rojas was selected in the 26th round by the Houston Astros of the 2017 MLB Draft. Rojas arrived in the Astros farm system with little fanfare given how late he was picked, but he continued to climb up the minor league ladder.
In the 2019 MLB trade deadline, he was sent to his hometown Arizona Diamondbacks in a package that sent ace Zach Grienke to Houston. Although he admitted getting traded from a franchise with the ilk of the Astros was bittersweet, it also gave him the unique opportunity of getting to play for his home state. Rojas hails from Arizona.
“I talked to my coaches at the end of the year, just telling them ‘this was an awesome opportunity to come up,’ especially because we were in a playoff race when I came up,” Rojas told KHON2. “They were big games, they weren’t meaningless games, which a lot of September call-up guys do play in meaningless games. To get my feet wet in meaningful games that needed to be won was really good for me.”
Rojas swiftly climbed the minor league ladder by slugging 41 home runs from 2017 to 2019. He also added to his defensive repertoire, playing outfield in addition to second and third base, his primary positions when he played for UH.
Rojas made his MLB debut on Aug. 12, 2019 and has remained in the majors since. Despite playing against some of the stars he grew up watching, Rojas realized he’s not far off from his counterparts and that he belongs.
“The biggest thing was when you play against the big leaguers, you’re used to watching all their highlights and seeing how unbelievable players are and then you play a full series with them and then you realize it’s just baseball,” he said. “They have their struggles, they have their ups and downs just like all the other players. It was pretty cool to see that I’m playing against other humans, too, and not everyone’s a freak.”
As Rojas heads into his first full MLB season, he says he won’t have a particular set of goals for himself, just as he didn’t for the 2019 season. In the 2019 season, Rojas lived out a major league dream. Time will tell how 2020 unfolds for him.
“I had goals the first two seasons and I didn’t live up to them, so (the 2019) season I went into the season just doing as best as I can with no goals in mind and just see what happens at the end of the year, and I had a really good year,” he said. “So I think I’m trying to go in there with the same type of goals, just to be healthy, be on the field and let the rest play out.”