Regardless of what happens from this point forward during the rest of his major league career, they will never be able to take three things away from former Osceola High School star Edwin Rios.
Those things include a recently earned 2020 World Series ring, his love for Kissimmee and Osceola High School and the fact that he will forever be the answer to a great sports trivia question.
First, the ring.
Rios graduated from Osceola High School, where he played four seasons – including his 2012 senior year under current Kowboys Coach Scott Birchler. A bench player in his freshman season, Rios improved each and every year eventually earning All-County and Team MVP honors his senior season.
Birchler says he first saw the potential in Rios when he was coaching at a different school during Rios’ junior campaign.
“I was at Liberty High School and we were in a tight game with Osceola. This kid gets up and just blasts a long home run to win the game. My first reaction was I couldn’t believe my eyes. How can a wiry, skinny guy hit the ball that far?”
A few months later, Birchler found himself back at Osceola High School as its head coach and began working with Rios on a daily basis. At Osceola, Rios would help the Kowboys to a district championship with a 22-10 record while hitting .400 with four home runs and knocking in 30 runs.
Even back then, Rios was dreaming about professional baseball but knew he had a long way to go.
“I felt I was going to get drafted out of high school and when that didn’t happen, I decided to go the college route,” Rios said. “In the long run it was the best thing to happen to me because it really opened my eyes to the reality of next level baseball. It really helped me understand that there are always going to be guys that are bigger, stronger, faster and more talented than you are and you better be prepared to work hard to reach your goals.”
Rios would sign with the Florida International University. In three seasons, he slugged 29 home runs with 146 RBIs. His top season came as a junior when he hit .314 with 18 home runs and 56 RBI. That earned Rios All-Conference honors – where he was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the sixth round of the 2015 major league draft.
“I had a pretty good junior season and when I was drafted I knew it was time to go,” Rios recalled.
From there, Rios would ascend rapidly up the organizational chart, advancing all the way from the Rookie League (Ogden, Utah) to triple A Oklahoma City in less than three years. Things would click for Rios in 2019. Playing for Triple A Oklahoma City, Rios would slam 31 home runs and knock in 91 runs in 104 games. The hot season earned Rios a late-season promotion to the majors where he hit .277 with four home runs in 28 games in a bench roll.
When baseball finally came back in 2020, Rios found himself on the Dodgers 25-man roster. Playing as a spot-starter and in a reserve role at third and first base and serving as a pinch hitter, he would play in 32 games – hitting .250 with eight home runs and 17 RBI. He would appear in seven post season games, where he collected a couple of hits against Atlanta in the National Championship Series. He appeared in two World Series games as a defensive replacement and was on the field when the Dodgers clinched a World Championship.
“Playing in a World Series was a thrill of a lifetime,” Rios said. “I have spent my entire career trying to live in the moment and all I ever tried to do was get better every day. But few players get to play college baseball, few ever get drafted, fewer still make it to the majors and even fewer get to say they played in a World Series. It was an incredible experience, one that I will forever be thankful for.”
Rios’ advancement to the majors made him just the second Osceola High School player to make it to the major leagues. Jamie Arnold, who played at Osceola in the early 1990s, spent parts of four seasons in the major leagues after being drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the first round of the 1992 draft. And while several other OHS players have made it to the minors, Rios is just the second to play in the show.
“He’s a great kid who deserves everything that has happened to him,” Birchler says of Rios’ rise to the major leagues. “High school is a long way from the major leagues, but we always knew he had the ability, desire and family support system to make it. In some ways, I felt a little sorry for him being in the Dodger organization in that they just gave Justin Turner a long contract and they had other established stars at his other positions. If he was with a different team I think he might have made it to the majors quicker than he did. Still he is a major leaguer and now a world champion and that’s something they can never take away.”
Rios remains close to both Kissimmee and Osceola High School. He often comes back to the area to visit family and can be found working out at OHS where he often gives tips and works with the current group of Kowboys players.
“I think it’s the responsibility of all professional athletes to try and give back to their communities. I love Kissimmee and OHS. It’s where I got my start and if you can help coach and inspire youngsters to continue to work hard and get an education, it’s something I want to do and it’s the right thing to do,” Rios said.
Birchler noted that Rios remains a great role model. “You make it to the major leagues, especially in a major market, you have a hundred different people pulling on you from a hundred different directions. Edwin has never forgotten his roots. We still talk on a regular basis and when he comes to town you can find him out here working with and teaching our current players. Not too many people know this, but he bought new cleats for the entire team last year. Its actions like that which help define who he is and what he’s about. We’re so proud of what he has accomplished.”
As for making history, Rios will always be the answer to a great baseball trivia question.
When the COVID-season of 2020 finally got underway, major league baseball changed its rules to help shorten extra-inning games – including putting a man on second base at the start of extra innings. On July 29, Rios led off the 11th inning with a towering home run against the Astros becoming the first player in major league history to hit a leadoff two-run homer.
“Obviously things like that don’t even occur to you when they happen,” Rios said. “I was in the clubhouse after the game when someone mentioned that they heard it was the first time in baseball history that anyone had hit a leadoff two-run homer. It really isn’t that big a deal because someone would have eventually done it, but it is pretty cool to say you were the first guy in MLB history to do it.”