By: Mark Lane (@therealmarklane)
ARLINGTON, Tx. — Former Texas Rangers catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame Tuesday evening. Rodriguez had four votes above the 75 percent floor, the fewest such votes for a first ballot Hall-of-Famer since Jackie Robinson in 1962.
“I’m out of words,” said Rodriguez at a press conference at Globe Life Park. “Growing up in my childhood town of Vega Baja and playing baseball at six or seven and be able to receive the Hall of Fame news an hour and a half ago, I think it was a great honor to me. First of all, I want to say thanks to all the media to select me this year as a first ballot Hall-of-Famer. I know it’s not easy to be in the Hall of Fame as a first timer. But it’s a dream come true to me.”
Rodriguez, who spent 1991-2002 with the Rangers and a brief return in 2009, is the 52nd player to be elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America in his first year on the ballot. Only Johnny Bench is the other catcher in history to earn such a prestigious honor.
“I’m very honored to say that I’m going to be right next to my favorite catcher growing up, my hero, Johnny Bench,” Rodriguez said. “And I will love in July that I can sit right next to him before I step in front of the microphone and do my speech. But I would love to be right next to him. He was my hero growing up.”
Rodriguez batted .296 with 311 home runs and 1,332 RBI in 2,543 major league games with the Rangers, Marlins (2003), Tigers (2004-08), Yankees (2008), Astros (2009), and Nationals (2010-11). The Puerto Rican won 13 Golden Gloves and a 14-time All-Star along with an American League MVP in 1999.
Playing with five other teams and even having postseason success that surpassed that of his tenure with Texas, there were questions of whether he would wear a Rangers hat in Cooperstown, New York.
Said the seven-time Silver Slugger Award winner: “Of course. The Rangers gave me the opportunity to sign at the age of 16, gave me an opportunity to come to the States and wear a professional uniform and play for a couple of years then play in the big leagues for 12 years.
“I feel very honored and just very happy to be part of the Texas Rangers organization. I know the Rangers are a huge part of this honor and this award that I received today, but I have to mention all the organizations that I played for. They’re a big part of it as well.”
The 45-year-old enters the Hall of Fame as the current youngest member. Rodriguez is the sixth Rangers player to be elected to the Hall of Fame, including pitcher Nolan Ryan, with whom Rodriguez played from 1991-93.
“We’re going to talk about a couple of stories, Nolan and I,” said Rodriguez. “And I can’t wait. It’s an honor for me, as a Texas Ranger, to just be there and Nolan and besides Nolan all these great Hall-of-Famers that are going to be behind me. It’s an honor.”
The 2017 induction class also includes first baseman Jeff Bagwell, outfielder Tim Raines, Royals and Braves General Manager John Schuerholz, and former MLB commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig. The induction ceremony will be July 30 in Cooperstown.