ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Ivan Rodriguez is finally accepting retirement almost two years after playing his final game. Now the 14-time All-Star catcher has what certainly won’t be his last Hall of Fame honor.
Rodriguez was inducted Saturday night into the Hall of Fame for the Texas Rangers, the team for which the catcher affectionately known as “Pudge” played for the first 12 of his 21 major league seasons. He made his debut at age 19 in June 1991, and also returned to the Rangers for the end of the 2009 season.
“I still watch baseball all the time at home. I still watch the Rangers of course,” Rodriguez said. “It’s getting to a point right now that I’m OK with (retirement). I know that I’ve played enough, and the players we have in baseball right now are great players. They replaced us in our positions, and I like what I see.”
Rodriguez, the 1999 American League MVP, is the 16th member of the Rangers hall. He joined a group that includes Hall of Fame pitcher and Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan and six-time Gold Glove-winning catcher Jim Sundberg.
“He played with intensity, he played with passion,” said Ryan, who was 44 years old when he pitched the second major league game ever caught by Rodriguez. “The thing that made us all really appreciate him was the enjoyment he got out of the game. He truly enjoyed the game, and he enjoyed winning even more.”
The pregame ceremony, which like the game against Baltimore was delayed nearly a half-hour by rain that gave way to sunshine, included the Rangers honoring the memory of former team owner Brad Corbett, who died last December.
Members of Corbett’s family and Dr. Bobby Brown, the former American League and Rangers president, were in attendance.
Rodriguez caught a major league record 2,427 games, surpassing Carlton Fisk’s record of 2,226 during a game for the Houston Astros four years ago at Rangers Ballpark before briefly rejoining the Rangers at the end of that season. The 13 Gold Gloves Rodriguez won were the most ever for a catcher.
In 1,507 career games with the Rangers, Rodriguez hit .304 with 217 home runs with 842 RBIs. He is second in club history in hits (1,747), doubles (352) and multihit games (490).
Rodriguez played for five other teams in his major league career, which he finished with Washington in 2010 and 2011. He also played for Florida, Detroit, the New York Yankees and Houston.
“Texas is different because Texas gave me the opportunity to become a professional baseball player when I was 16 years old,” he said. “They gave me the opportunity when I was 19 years old to play in the big leagues and play into 2002. Of course you have to feel something special for that team and that’s why the Rangers is a very special place to me.”
Pudge, who hit .332 with 35 home runs and 113 RBIs during his MVP season, was part of the Rangers when they won their first three AL West titles in a four-year span in the late 1990s without winning a playoff series then. He later appeared in two World Series, with the champion Marlins in 2003, the year after leaving the Rangers, and Detroit in 2006.
During spring training this year, he rejoined the Rangers as a special assistant to the general manager to assist the team in several areas, including international scouting, player instruction on the major and minor league levels and talent evaluation. He also represents the team in community and marketing endeavors.
“He brings credibility. He was an outstanding Texas Ranger player. From the day he arrived here he made his mark,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “It’s credibility more than anything else that he brings. When he has something to say, people listen because he’s got stuff to back it up. We’re very fortunate to have a guy of his caliber in the organization.”