Sports writer “Pikey” Rodriguez headed into UTRGV Hall of Honor

EDINBURG — McAllen High alum Pablo “Pikey” Rodriguez spent 35 years as an award-winning sports writer in South Texas, shining lights on athletic talents across the Rio Grande Valley.

On Saturday, Rodriguez will have his turn in the limelight as he’s set to be inducted into the UTRGV Hall of Honor for his contributions to Pan American athletics, now UTRGV.

Rodriguez said the news that he was being inducted into UTRGV’s Hall of Honor caught him off-guard because he covered the program as a sports writer for The Monitor from 1977-2005, not working for university. Rodriguez thought the university would only induct employees and athletes, to which UTRGV responded with, “We recognize people that promoted our program.”

“I think it’s outstanding. I really enjoyed my years being part of that program. I felt like I helped a lot to promote them because we were a smaller paper back in the ’70s and ’80s, so we would devote a lot of time to the university back then,” Rodriguez said. “It’s come a long way, the college has, from being a junior college, to a college and then a university. I’ve seen a lot of progress there throughout the years.”

Rodriguez’s impact on RGV sports spans over decades across the entire Valley, from the youth level to high school, up to UTRGV’s days as Pan American in the 1970s and ’80s.

Rodriguez co-founded the Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame in 1985 intent on honoring outstanding athletic accomplishments by the RGV’s best. Rodriguez went on to be inducted into the RGV Sports Hall of Fame in 2001 after being nominated by legendary Pan American baseball coach Al Ogletree. In 2005, he was recognized as the Texas High School Sports Writer of the Year by the Texas High School Coaches Association.

“My intent was always to be positive and promote the kids through local and state levels to help them get recognition and go on to be better outstanding citizens,” he said.

When it came to Pan American and UTPA athletics, Rodriguez helped in a multitude of ways.

Rodriguez traveled with the Pan American basketball team cross country, covering their games, as well as appearing on the program’s radio broadcasts. He also wrote weekly columns about Pan American athletics.

But perhaps his biggest impact was on the women’s basketball team.

When John McDowell, a former Pan American basketball player, was named the first women’s head coach in the school’s history, he needed help recruiting in the area.

As an African-American in a predominantly Hispanic region, McDowell told Rodriguez it was difficult for him to go into households in small towns such as Mercedes and Roma because they didn’t know who he was. But they knew who Rodriguez was. And Rodriguez knew who the top players across the RGV were due to covering them as a sports writer for The Monitor during their high school days.

“I went along with him on some recruiting trips and I helped him get the basketball program started over there by recruiting the girls that I covered throughout the years. I’d say, ‘Well this girl should be an outstanding player,’ and he took my advice and we went along and recruited a bunch of them throughout the years. He did an outstanding job getting the program started,” Rodriguez said.

On Saturday, UTRGV will honor Rodriguez for all his contributions to their athletic programs over the years.

“It’s a special honor,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve had outstanding athletes being inducted throughout the years. I feel honored to be among those inductees.”

Rodriguez and his fellow inductees will throw out the first pitch before UTRGV’s baseball season opener tonight against Kansas State.

bramos@themonitor.com