It will be a proud day in July in Cooperstown, New York, when baseball fans and especially Puerto Ricans will see one of their own, Major League catcher Iván Rodríguez, inducted into the the Baseball Hall of Fame.
After the announcement on Wednesday that he was elected, there was great excitement and pride as Rodríguez shared the historic moment on social media:
Rodríguez can now add his name to the list of other Puerto Rican players who have been enshrined in Cooperstown. Puerto Rico's first Hall of Famer was the late, great Roberto Clemente (class of 1973) who's arguably the best player in the island's history. Rodríguez will also join first baseman Orlando Cepeda (1999), and most recently Roberto Alomar (2011) who was one of the top second basemen during the 90's.
Born in the northern Puerto Rican city of Manatí, Rodriguez's career spanned 21 seasons. While he may best be remembered for his time with the Texas Rangers (1991-2002, 2009), "Pudge," as he is known, also suited up for the Florida Marlins (2003), Detroit Tigers (2004-2008), New York Yankees (2008), Houston Astros (2009), and finally with the Washington Nationals (2010 and 2011) before calling it a career.
Rodríguez has collected quite the variety of awards during his illustrious career. Aside from his 2003 World Series ring with the Marlins, Pudge was a 14-time All-Star, the 1999 American League Most Valuable Player, the MVP of the 2003 National League Championship Series, he also has 13 Gold Gloves, and seven Silver Slugger Awards. He also finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting in 1991. Aside from his time in the big leagues, Rodriguez suited up for his native Puerto Rico in the 2006 and 2009 editions of the World Baseball Classic.
He finished with a career slash line of .296/.334/.464/.798 to go with 311 career home runs, 1,332 runs batted in, and 127 career stolen bases. Rodríguez also ranks 54th on the all-time total bases list (4,451), he's the all-time leader among catchers in career putouts (14,864), and at one point in his career he drew comparisons to fellow Hall of Fame catchers Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra.
Aside from his offensive skill set, his propensity to throw out would-be base stealers sets him apart from most players at his position. His 68.4 career wins above replacement among catchers puts him behind only the aforementioned Bench (75.0) and another Hall of Famer in the late Gary Carter (69.9).
In 12 WBC games Rodríguez collected 15 hits in 31 at bats. Of those 15 hits, three of them were home runs. Rodríguez also had seven RBI's for Puerto Rico along with four doubles, and nine total runs scored. His 2009 WBC slash line was a very impressive .500/.583/.950/.1.533. With Rodríguez behind the plate Puerto Rico reached the second round on both occasions. Whether it was America's past time, or international competition, Rodriguez was an impact player.
Some have tried to connect Rodriguez to steroid use but he's never failed a drug test and there has been no concrete evidence ever presented in that regard; he has denied any use of performance enhancing substances.
Any concerns however remote weren't enough to keep away the voters who elected Rodriguez in his first year of voting eligibility. He was one of the most consistent players in the game and has now been given the ultimate reward for his hard work and sacrifice.
Rodriguez wasn't the only boricua up for election this year. His New York Yankees teammate, Jorge Posada, only received 3.8-percent of the vote (75 percent is needed for election). It was his first time on the ballot, but his low vote total eliminated him from future consideration by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Posada, however, could be elected in the future by the newly-established Today's Game Committee. Current Seattle Mariners hitting coach, Edgar Martinez, who spent most of his career as a designated hitter, only missed election by 17-percent in his eighth year on the ballot.
Perhaps Rodriguez's election gives both men hope down the road. But for now, Puerto Rican and Latino baseball fans are celebrating as one of their favorite athletes has been recognized among the legends of the game.