The Texas Rangers are honoring one of the best players ever to play for the team. Former catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame last month.
He’ll have his No. 7 Rangers jersey retired on Saturday by the organization. Rodriguez sat down with KERA to look back at his start in Puerto Rico and career in Texas.
...On growing up in Puerto Rico: Baseball in Puerto Rico is pretty much everywhere you go. You see kids playing on baseball fields. I grew up there. I started at the age of 7, and I played different positions in my early age. When I turned 11 to 12 years old, I started to become a catcher.
...On trying out for the Texas Rangers at 16: It was one tryout the Rangers came, and they asked me to put the catching gear on. And the first throw that I threw to second base, I threw it 92 miles per hour. That's the only throw. That's the only one I threw to second base. I didn't have to go and hit or anything. Just one throw, and I became a Texas Ranger.
...On his first game at 19 and catching for Nolan Ryan: We didn't talk much because, at the time, I didn't speak the language (English) well. That's one of the struggles every Latin player has to go through. [Ryan] just told me, "Look, you don't have to do too much. Make sure you put the right fingers down, and I'll throw the ball to you." I called a lot of fastballs that day and that's what he likes to throw.
...On being a part of the Rangers broadcast team: I learned the language the hard way, right. I had to because the position that I play. I'm still learning. I still speak more Spanish than English. But yeah, in the beginning, it was kind of tough. Sometimes, I as [a Latino], we think that talking a lot is good for us, and it's not. I like to talk. I'm a person who we can talk here for hours no problem. Sometimes, the less that you talk in English, the better the people are going to understand you. I learned that through the years. I'm good now. I feel great. You're talking baseball, it's nice, and I love the job.
...On his favorite moments in Arlington: The fans, the city, my three kids. They were all born here in Texas, two born in Arlington and the little one born in Fort Worth. I know that I'm from Puerto Rico, but I think this is another home for me. I grew up here. The fans are great. And every time I come to the ballpark, the fans are very happy to see me around.