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Francisco Rodriguez named 2020 Heart of Gold recipient

Ashley Inge
Francisco Rodriguez playing as an outfielder on Tarleton State University's baseball team.

Francisco Rodriquez, or Frankie, is Stephenville High School’s 2020 Heart of Gold recipient and will be honored prior to the 7:30 p.m. kickoff against Waco La Vega at Tarleton State University's Memorial Stadium on Friday.

Each year, money raised from donations as well as Heart of Gold T-shirt sales is presented to help the family of a person who has been struggling with some form of illness.

Heart of Gold first began in 2009 and there are 12 previous Heart of Gold recipients. Rodriguez is the 13th recipient.

Raised in Venezuela, Rodriquez, 25, came to the United States to play baseball and received scholarships from Vernon College and Tarleton State University.

After a successful baseball career as an outfielder, he received his bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports studies in 2019 from Tarleton where he was outstanding in his academic studies. Following graduation, he started working as a life skills aide at Gilbert Intermediate.

Last December, Rodriquez was involved in a car accident when he was hit from behind by a pickup truck and pushed into oncoming traffic, where an 18-wheel vehicle hit his car from head on.

He was care flighted to Fort Worth with a severe brain injury and was in a coma for almost four months. Rodriguez is now out of his coma and receiving medical and rehabilitation services in Galveston.

He has now improved in his medical rehab to the point that he has started to walk with the help of an apparatus.

“Frankie is the hardest worker you will ever meet, and the most positive,” said Gilbert Intermediate Principal Victor Sauceda. “It is no surprise that he is meeting all his rehab goals. His family are the kindest and humblest people. However, the accident has taken an emotional and financial toll on them. They definitely are worthy recipients of this honor.”

Sauceda said Rodriguez’s mom and dad are with him in Galveston while he is undergoing rehab. He said Rodriguez will not be able to come to the pregame Heart of Gold ceremony, so he will accept the check during the pregame ceremony on behalf of Rodriguez.

Rodriguez has also recorded a video message that will be played on the video screen at Memorial Stadium during the pregame ceremony.

“Team Frankie” T-shirts were sold at the SISD campuses last week and will be delivered to each campus on Thursday. The shirts are to be worn to school on Friday and to the game that evening.

Barefoot Campus Outfitter is selling a limited amount of “Team Frankie” T-shirts in a first-come, first-serve basis beginning at 3 p.m. Thursday, until game time on Friday.

"Everything that he has done, he's always done it with the best effort that he can put on,” Sauceda said about Rodriguez. “We put him in a pretty difficult position – we’re talking about life skills kids, kids that have very high needs and he flourished. He loved them, he worked with them, he was very patient with them and all of these kids just completely fell in love with him. Not only that, but he’s such a gentleman to everybody here. He always smiled and was always respectful to everybody; just a very nice and easygoing guy.”

SISD Athletics Director Jerod Womack noted that Frankie's personality drew his students closer to him in the classroom, and that "he is most deserving of this."

“Frankie is a beloved employee from the school district. He was a kid magnet who has poured a lot of energy and effort in his time at Gilbert."

Francisco "Frankie" Rodriguez.