Written by Sports Information Director Collin Loutensock and Graduate Assistant Alex Mead
Rodney Tafoya, who graduated from Newman in 1989, continues to dominate on the diamond. At the age of 55 and the author of “Ageless Arm,” Tafoya continues to be an inspiration on the field as well as off, in search for win number 500.
Tafoya started his career at St. Michael’s High School before attending New Mexico Highlands and eventually ending his collegiate career at Newman University in 1986. During the 1986 season, he struck out 71 batters, which is still tied for sixth most in a season for Jets Baseball.
As of June 9, 2020, Tafoya has played in 670 games and played for 173 total teams with a lifetime record of 448-93 which is a winning percentage of .828. He has also recorded 13 saves. Tafoya was enshrined into the Men’s Senior Baseball League Hall of Fame in 2014.
The milestones he is looking to reach now are career win number 450 as well as 500, which would have gotten him to Cooperstown by a long shot. He has 200 more wins than any pitcher that has made it to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
When speaking to Tafoya on the phone, a game that stood out to him from his Newman career was the first time the Jets beat a Division I opponent. He faced the Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence on March 22, 1986 — a game in which the Jets would win 10-0. Tafoya would end up throwing a complete game shutout giving up just six hits with three walks and five strikeouts.
Another game that stood out to Rodney was his 4-2 victory over No. 3-ranked Emporia State in the District 10 Tournament played at Lawrence Dumont Stadium. Tafoya said he was very familiar with the mound as he played on a team, coached by Paul Sanagorski, the previous summer that played a majority of their games at Lawrence Dumont. In this game, Rodney would throw a complete nine innings giving up just two runs on seven hits, no walks, and nine strikeouts. Another thing about this game that stood out to Rodney after he was picked up by the Boise Hawks in 1989 was that both starting pitchers had gone on to play in the Minor Leagues.
Much like the rest of the world, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he is impatiently waiting to get back on the diamond and play the sport he has dedicated his life to. A project that he has been working on is his baseball collection that has dated back from his time at St. Michael’s; he has a baseball from just about every game that he has played in his 40-year career. He said he has found 420 out of the 448 baseballs from victories in his career.
This break in sports has allowed him to go through all of his baseballs and label and organize them. He said, “It’s much like writing a book with all of the detail and time it takes.”
Tafoya has spent more than 180 hours organizing all of his baseballs and has a special Instagram dedicated to showing the world his collection that is currently updated to 2012. Rodney currently resides in New Mexico, where they have canceled the Men’s Senior Baseball League’s season, so he has resorted to traveling places to pitch in games to seek out his 449th and 450th wins.
Rodney said he cherishes his time spent at Newman University and has loved all of the people he’s met at the school. He said, “To me, Newman is all about the people. They have some of the kindest hearts I have ever met. I have traveled all over the world and I tell everyone that the people from Kansas are the nicest people I have ever met. Newman not only taught me lessons; it changed my life.”
His Newman Diploma sits in his baseball room right next to his collection of baseballs. He was unable to attend his graduation because he had just been picked up by the Boise Hawks and needed to be in Idaho the week before graduation.