I’ll come out and say it: I wasn’t always a Texas Rangers fan. But ever since I can recall playing baseball in the cool springs and hot summers in Montreal, I was a fan of Ivan Rodriguez. I used to play catcher and I loved to throw. Runner on first? I tried to pick him off. Want to steal? Go ahead. While I was doing this in little league, there was the first catcher I ever saw that showed me doing that was OK. That guy was Ivan Rodriguez.
Sure Mike Piazza had the accolades and the homeruns, but there was only one catcher that had it all and he will retire a Texas Ranger on Monday.
I admittedly don’t have the same connection to him as Rangers fans did. Up until a few years ago, Rodriguez was part of some of the best times in Rangers history. I didn’t care about those. I only cared about the guy they called Pudge. Because that’s what they called me. That’s what I wanted to be called.
I’m not going to sit here and write how it would feel to watch Pudge retire a Ranger. I don’t know. I don’t have the connection to the team that so many of you do. I can’t say what he meant to the organization. I have no different emotional connection to Pudge the Ranger as I do to Pudge the Marlin or Pudge the National.
But he was probably the only player I ever tried to emulate. I mean, when you’re a pitcher you pretend to be like Hideo Nomo or Dontrelle Willis with the weird windup and fool around. As a batter it was Tony Batista’s stance. But as a catcher, there was only Pudge. And that is what I will remember him for as a player.
(On a side note, I imagine there are several catchers who block the ball lazily to emulate Miguel Olivo.)
I do appreciate what a player can mean to a team, though. Gary Carter had with the Montreal Expos. He came back on a one-year contract in 1992 before retiring. Rodriguez has the same idea coming back with a one-day contract. They have a few similarities. Both were beloved by their fanbases. Both were good catchers who could hit a ton. And while Carter is already enshrined in Cooperstown, Pudge will have his day as well.