El Bronx, NY - Iván Rodríguez, the future Hall of Fame (HOF) catcher for the Texas Rangers will retire officially from major league baseball tonight, Monday April 23rd, 2012 at the Texas Rangers' game in Arlington against the New York Yankees. This is quite fitting since he also played for one brief season with the Bronx Bombers.
After playing 21 years in the majors he will hang up his spikes and will leave a legacy that will be hard to ignore. Iván should be a first ballot candidate for the HOF after a five-year wait. From his debut in 1991 when he became the youngest player at the age of 19 to catch a major league game to tonight when he calls it quits, Iván will be remembered as one of the greatest catchers to play the game. From his first day catching through 2006 Iván had a gun for an arm that threw out 48% of the runners that tried to steal against him. That is one incredible statistic. In addition, another statistic not mentioned was the number of runners that he picked off first base with his cat like reflexes throwing from a squatting position. His ability to do that so frequently helped keep runners so close to the first base bag that few would be able to run to third on a hit which is a routine in baseball. That statistic will also never appear on any piece of paper.
Ivan is one of several excellent catchers that have come from Puerto Rico. The island had produced, Benito Santiago, Sandy Alomar and Javier Lopez and all made their mark on the game during their time. However, from that list of great Puerto Rican catchers and from the overall list of great MLB catchers like Yogi Berra and Johnny Bench (who was named the greatest catcher ever by the Sporting News in late 1998, in which he was also named the 16th greatest player of all time) Iván stands among the greatest as well.
Johnny Bench himself once stated publicly that he felt that in his opinion, Iván Rodriguez was one of the greatest catchers to play the game of baseball.
Rodríguez though a quiet individual and known for his great defense also did his talking with the bat as well.
In 1994, he caught Kenny Rogers' perfect game, and in 1995, the Texas Rangers named him player of the year. In 1996, he broke the record for most doubles by a catcher and in 1997 he led Texas in batting average with a .325.
By 1999, Iván was voted the American League MVP and also won the prestigious LatinoMVP award as well. His 35 home runs was a new record for catchers and he also made baseball history by being the first to hit over 30 home runs, 100 RBIs and 100 runs scored in a single season. After several years suffering from injuries he was traded out of Texas to the shock of many adoring fans. He was traded to make room for Alex Rodríguez.
Iván proved the substance of that wise Puerto Rican saying, "no hay mal que por bien no venga" (there is nothing negative that something positive won't come from it) because that year Texas finished in the bottom of the standings and Iván helped lead the young Florida Marlins team to a World Series victory, the only one of his career.
My personal experiences with Ivan are among some of the most pleasant of any player that I have had the pleasure to meet. He was always cordial, always made time to talk to you, not from a rehearsed script, but from the heart like a regular guy. He also gave me much respect when he would see me and go out of his way to come over and greet me, making me feel like if I was the star, not him. That is the person who is Iván "Pudge" Rodríguez a star baseball player that never allowed his ego to overshadow the shine he carried internally. Baseball will miss a player like Iván I know I will.
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