‘Pudge’ Rodriguez deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame

Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez spent 21 years in Major League Baseball. His name will appear for the first time on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot this December and many believe the former Tulsa Drillers catcher will be a first ballot selection to Cooperstown.

Rodriguez received a huge honor this past week as the Drillers retired his uniform number 8, in a ceremony prior to the team’s game against Northwest Arkansas.

“It’s good to be back after a lot of years,” Rodriguez said during a press conference prior to the game.  “The city has changed a lot.”

Rodriguez was only 19 years old when he played in Tulsa in 1991. He was then called up to Arlington by the Texas Rangers in June of that year. In fact, Rodriguez had to postpone his wedding because of his promotion to Texas. He was scheduled to get married between games of a double-header in Tulsa on June 20, 1991, but that was the night he made his Major League debut. The wedding would come a year later.

His number will go on permanent display at ONEOK Field, along with two other numbers that have been retired by the Drillers – former manager Bobby Jones (33) and Mike Coolbaugh (29). The display is on the fence beyond the right field wall.

The Puerto Rico native played his games in Tulsa at old Drillers Stadium at the fairgrounds, Rodriguez said he was impressed with the new downtown ball park.

“The first thing I asked was about the old stadium, if it was still there,” he said. “This is a very good stadium, a very nice field – one of the best minor league stadiums. It’s a good looking minor league ballpark.”

Rodriguez, played with six different teams in the majors; the Rangers (twice), Florida Marlins, Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, Houston Astros and Washington Nationals. He was named the 1999 American League MVP was selected to the All-Star team 14 times during his career. He also won more gold gloves than any other catcher in Major League history, 13. Rodriguez was named the MVP of the National League Championship Series in 2003, when the Marlins defeated the Chicago Cubs to advance to the World Series. He holds the all-time record for catching the most games in MLB history, 2,427, surpassing Carlton Fisk.

“I played the game hard,” he said. “I had a good career offensively, but defense that was my game. I took a lot of pride in making a pitcher feel comfortable.”

No player will ever admit to thinking they deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, but there are many who believe Rodriguez is a shoo-in to be a first ballot inductee.

“I had a good big league career, I’ll have to wait and see what happens,” he said.

Rodriguez played on two World Series teams, winning with the Marlins in 2003, beating the Yankees, and playing with Detroit in 2006, losing to St. Louis. He said winning the World Series was the highlight of his career.

“It was a dream come true,” Rodriguez said. “There was a lot of hard work, putting your heart into it.”

When Rodriguez announced his retirement in April of 2012, he signed a one-day contract with the Texas Rangers in order to retire as a member of the team. He now works as an analyst on the Rangers broadcasts. He was inducted in the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 2012. He’ll now wait and see what the Baseball Writers of America decide regarding his fate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

ROUGHNECKS AT HOME

The Tulsa Roughnecks FC will play two home matches this weekend in United Soccer League play as the team hosts Arizona United SC Friday night, and San Antonio FC on Sunday. Both games will begin at 7:30 p.m. at ONEOK Field. There will be a fireworks show after both games.

The Roughnecks are coming off a 2-0 loss at Los Angeles Galaxy II, last Saturday night.