A-Rod’s HS coach: ‘All he wants … is to play’

Rich Hofman did not know what to feel Monday after getting the

long-awaited word that Major League Baseball handed New York

Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez a 211-game suspension for

performance-enhancing drug use.

By now, he’s largely used to the drama surrounding the best

player he ever mentored.

Hofman was Rodriguez’s coach at Westminster Christian in Miami,

up until the player was drafted No. 1 overall by Seattle in 1993.

They were close for many years after that, until the three-time

Most Valuable Player acknowledged in 2009 that he used PEDs while

playing for the Texas Rangers several years earlier.

”One thing about Alex, he’s gone through a lot of turmoil

personally with family issues and now these two situations,”

Hofman said. ”But you know what? When he gets on the field, he has

incredible ability to block all this out and just play the game.

That’s what makes him special. I guarantee you, he ain’t worrying

about this once the first inning starts. All he wants to do is play

baseball.”

Rodriguez will be able to play while he appeals the

suspension.

The A-Rod saga has enveloped Miami since its very beginning.

It’s where he grew up, where he spent time as a kid hanging out

around the now-demolished Orange Bowl, where he has remained active

with charitable events and causes. He even is a trustee at the

University of Miami – where the on-campus baseball stadium bears

his name.

University spokeswoman Margot Winick declined to comment on the

Rodriguez suspension or if the school has any plans to remove his

name from the baseball park. Miami has some precedent there – the

school once had a student-athlete lounge named for Nevin Shapiro,

erasing that mention after the rogue former booster was convicted

of operating a $930 million Ponzi scheme. Shapiro’s actions also

sparked an NCAA investigation into Miami athletics.

And not far from the Hurricanes’ Alex Rodriguez Park is the site

of the now-closed Biogenesis clinic, where the banned PEDs were

allegedly being distributed. Rodriguez and 17 other players have

now been punished for their association with Biogenesis, and Hofman

said he wonders why A-Rod is looked at differently than others.

”Media doesn’t like him,” Hofman said. ”A lot of the people

at the Yankees don’t like him. The public really doesn’t like

him.”

Hofman said the downfall in their relationship started around

the time that Rodriguez got divorced in 2008, saying ”when that

changed and he became involved with the Hollywood gals, he didn’t

have time for us.”

Still, Hofman said he continues believing that Rodriguez can

regain elite form, and that he wants to know how baseball is

certain that whatever happened merits such a stiff penalty.

”If he’s a user, he deserves to be punished,” Hofman said.

”What extent, how many games, that’s the questions I would have.

That’s all to be based on information that I don’t have. I guess

due process will take place and that will determine the final

outcome, and the process will also shed a lot of light on what did

happen.”