ARLINGTON, Texas — Ivan Rodriguez was back in Texas again. This time, the 14-time All-Star catcher said he has played his last game.
Calling it a very hard day after a great run, Rodriguez fought back tears Monday as he announced his retirement at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. It came nearly 21 years after the fan favourite known as Pudge made his major league debut as a 19-year-old with the Rangers before later playing with five other teams.
Surrounded by his wife and their three children, including his 19-year-old son who is a prospect in the Minnesota Twins organization, Rodriguez’s eyes glistened and he spoke slowly at first when announcing his retirement.
He thanked his parents and brother who sat in the front row for supporting him since he started playing baseball at age 5 in Puerto Rico.
Rodriguez said he planned to remain in baseball in some capacity. Ryan said the Rangers have already had some preliminary discussions with him about what that might be.
“I’m always going to be in baseball the rest of my life,” Rodriguez said. “I’ll be in baseball, and I’ll be active and I’ll be doing things, you’ll definitely see me around.”
Rodriguez caught a major league record 2,427 games, surpassing Carlton Fisk’s record of 2,226 during a game for the Houston Astros three years ago at Rangers Ballpark. It was later that season that Pudge returned briefly to the Rangers, the team he played for the first 12 of his 21 seasons.
“It was interesting to have witnessed Pudge’s career and be involved in it at the start and see the player that he grew to be and the impact that he had on our organization,” said Rangers president Nolan Ryan, the Hall of Fame pitcher who was still playing when Rodriguez made his major league debut on June 20, 1991.
Rodriguez hit .296 with 311 home runs and 1,332 RBIs in 2,543 games overall with Texas (1991-2002, 2009), Florida (2003), Detroit (2004-08), the Yankees (2008), Houston (2009), and Washington (2010-11). His 13 Gold Gloves were the most for a catcher.
“The first time I threw to Pudge and saw him, I really thought he was going to be a good receiver, and he had a great arm, we all knew that,” Ryan said. “I never anticipated or expected, I don’t think, for him to have the career that he had and have the impact on the organization that he had. It was really exciting and fun to watch.”
Rodriguez, who didn’t take questions during the news conference, was part of the Rangers’ first three AL West titles in a four-year span in the late 1990s. He later appeared in two World Series, with the champion Florida Marlins in 2003 and Detroit in 2006.
Texas won its first three AL West titles in a four-year span in the late 1990s, but didn’t win a playoff series then. Rodriguez hit .332 with 35 home runs and 113 RBIs in 1999, when he was the American League MVP.
The two-time defending AL champion Rangers have no immediate plans to retire his No. 7 jersey, but have discussed the possibility.