Iván Rodríguez is not from Texas. In fact this Latino baseball legend was born and raised in Puerto Rico, and yet today, more than six years since his last catch for the Texas Rangers, Iván Rodríguez is, and perhaps always will be, a Texas hometown favorite.
Rodríguez signed with the Texas Rangers in July 1988, and had his MLB debut on June 20, 1991. On that day in ’91, at the ripe age of 19 years, he became the youngest person to catch in a major league game that season. This was just the first of many accolades “Pudge” would accrue over his 21-year career.
Believed by many to be the best defensive catcher of all time, Iván Rodríguez will be inducted into the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame this December. As fellow Texas Rangers star Juan “Igor” González said when he was inducted in February 2013, “This is our Hall of Fame, it belongs to us, the Latinos.” The Latino Baseball Hall of Fame celebrates the achievements of Hispanic and Caribbean Major League Baseball players. Being inducted alongside Iván are former Texas Rangers players, Sammy Sosa (Dominican Republic) and Omar Vizquel (Venezuela), as well as Orlando “El Duque” Hernández (Cuba), Jesse Orosco (Mexico), Edgar Rentería (Colombia), Hiram Bithorn (Puerto Rico), Emilio Cueche (Venezuela), Conrado “Connie” Marrero (Cuba), Federico “Chi-Chi” Olivo (Dominican Republic) and Enrique Romo (Mexico).
Iván Rodríguez and Plano Profile publisher Philip Silvestri were in attendance when the Class of 2016 was announced on the MLB Network in September, so we took that opportunity to ask him a few questions about his career, success and memories of the Texas Rangers.
Did you ever imagine you would become one of the best catchers in baseball?
I started playing at age 7 in Little League in Vega Baja [Puerto Rico], and my desire and dream was always to reach the Majors. I used to play other positions; pitcher, 3rd base. But as I got older I dedicated myself to the catcher position and thank God I was able to play 21 years and have the career I had.
June 20, 1991 marked your debut in the Major Leagues with the Texas Rangers, how did that feel?
It was a very special moment. Having the opportunity to reach the Majors is a dream come true for every player. I’m blessed that in 1991 my moment arrived.
Who was your role model? Is there someone you credit for helping you in your success?
My whole family–my mom, my dad and my brother–all played baseball, but I have to say my dad was my biggest influence. He was my first coach, he always practiced with me and took me to practices, he was with me all the time, and my mother, too. Among my coaches, I can mention Julio Pabon and many more who also helped me a lot. But if I had to choose, I would say my dad and my mom, because they were the ones who took me and kept me on track to become who I am today.
Of your many achievements, which are you most proud of? 14 All-Star Games, your 13 Gold Gloves, your World Series ring, your 7 Silver Slugger or the American League MVP in ‘99?
I would have to say my World Series ring, because it is a prize that as a player you always want, a yearning to be the best and to be a champion. I thank God for that opportunity in 2003 with the Florida Marlins. I also thank God for all the awards I received throughout my career, both offensively and defensively. All these awards are good, but I think having health and the ability that God gave me, to be able develop it and play to the level in which I played for so many years, that is what means the most.
Many people compare you with Hall of Fame member, Johnny Bench, how do you feel about that?
Very good! It sounds good to me to have a Hall of Fame member “thrown” at me… I respect him a lot. It’s an honor to be compared with players already in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
What has been your biggest moment of frustration?
I have to say I’m a very positive person. I use the frustrating things as motivation, so I don’t think I can mention any one moment because I used them all in a positive way. Although the end of my career was very hard because I couldn’t play every day, but on the other hand I got the chance to help many young boys who are today playing in the Majors.
Latino Baseball Hall of Fame
The Latino Baseball Hall of Fame, was born out of the same Latino passion for baseball that makes Adrián Beltré, Elvis Andrus and indeed Iván “Pudge” Rodríguez favorites, not only in their home countries, but among U.S. fans alike.
Founded in 2009, the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame aims to celebrate the achievements of Hispanic and Caribbean Major League Baseball players, who now account for nearly 50% of all players in the Major Leagues. Each year two players from each country – the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Venezuela, Panama and Mexico – are elected to be inducted into the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame.
Since 2009 a grand total of 86 Latino players and executives have been inducted, among them former Texas Rangers stars Ricardo “Rico” Carty (1973), Andrés Galarraga (2001), Juan “Igor” González (1989-1999), Dagoberto “Bert” Campaneris (1977-1979) and César Leonardo Tovar (1974-1975).
The Grand Induction Ceremony taking place on December 5 is televised for ESPN and held at the magnificent 5,000- seat open air amphitheater of Altos de Chavón, a spectacular venue inaugurated in 1982 by Frank Sinatra. Altos de Chavón forms part of the famous Casa de Campo Resort, both a tourist destination and a gated community. Casa de Campo boasts a private marina and beach, as well as world-class sporting facilities, such as the Caribbean’s top golf course, the Teeth of the Dog.