ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – In the mind of at least one Rangers fan (the author), Ivan Rodriguez will always be a 19-year-old called up from Oklahoma City so fast he had to postpone his wedding. He’ll always be the pudgy kid who earned his nickname for a reason, and will always be the catcher with the magic arm that almost picked off Rickey Henderson at second base on a hot night at Arlington Stadium on July 2, 1991.
Pudge Rodriguez was a force to be reckoned with early on in a Rangers uniform. His name quickly rose to ‘best catchers in majors’ lists while giving the Rangers the best catcher they’d seen since the days of Jim Sundberg.
In his first 11 seasons, he was an All-Star and gold glove winner 10 times, a silver slugger in 6 seasons and the American League MVP in 1999. Impressive numbers to rack up before age 30.
Pudge left the Rangers at the end of 2002, and went on to become a journeyman catcher with teams across the majors, taking the Florida Marlins and Detroit Tigers to the World Series. It didn’t get weird until he showed up in Arlington in a Yankees uniform in 2008. The next year, he was back in Rangers Red, White & Blue, having been traded from the Houston Astros.
But at the end of ’09, he was gone. It almost felt harder to say goodbye the second time, knowing we would likely never see him near the brick Ballpark backstop.
Somewhere, Ivan Rodriguez is catching a game still, calling pitches for the Washington Nationals for the past two seasons. But 20 years ago he was our star, and will be in the minds of many Rangers fans for a very long time.