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Rodriguez, Alex

Alex Rodriguez

1975-

American baseball player

At a very young age, Alex Rodriguez was being compared to the greatest shortstops in baseball history. Few if any shortstops had ever combined consistent and slick fielding with powerful offensive production the way Rodriguez did in his early years. At age 26 he established a new all-time record for home runs by a shortstop in a single season, and the following year he broke his own record. He also set new standards for athletic compensation. Rodriguez's $252 million, ten-year contract with

the Texas Rangers in December 2000 was the most lucrative in the history of professional sports, and it caused headlines worldwide. Rodriguez became the foremost example of the well-paid modern athlete, as well as a popular and handsome celebrity. Entering his prime years and steadily increasing his power production, Rodriguez was considered a candidate to eventually become baseball's all-time career home run champion.

Great Expectations

The son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Alex Rodriguez was born in New York City in 1975. His parents moved him and his two siblings, Joe and Susy, to the Dominican Republican when Alex was four, and then moved again to the Miami, Florida, area when he was eight. When Alex was in fifth grade, his father, Victor, a shoe salesman and a catcher in the Dominican pro baseball league, left the family, and his parents divorced. His mother, Lourdes Navarro, worked two jobs, as a secretary and a waitress, so that she could send Alex to private school. She and the three children lived in Kendall, Florida, a suburb of Miami.

Having learned baseball from his father, Rodriguez as a child idolized major league players Dale Murphy of the Atlanta Braves and Cal Ripken, Jr. of the Baltimore Orioles. At Westminster Christian High School in Miami, he was an honor roll student, devoutly religious, popular, and a sharp dresseras well as an exceptional sports star, playing quarterback on the football team, point guard on the basketball team, and shortstop on the baseball team. In his junior year, Rodriguez batted .450 and his team won the national championship. He later credited coach Rich Hofman with teaching him to stop swinging at bad pitches. Rodriguez's baseball teammate Doug Mientkiewicz, who went out to play with the Minnesota Twins, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in 1999 that Rodriguez's greatness was already obvious in high school: "He would hit a ball hard enough to kill people." While Rodriguez was still a sophomore, scouts were projecting him as an eventual number one pick. As a senior, he hit .505 and stole 35 bases without being caught once.

The Seattle Mariners had the first pick in the amateur draft in June 1993, and they selected Rodriguez because he was the most exciting "five-tool" prospect in years: he could hit for average, hit for power, run fast, throw well, and play great defense. Agent Scott Boras, who represented many of the major league's top players, took charge of negotiations. It took more than two months to get a contract signed, a $1.3 million, three-year deal that included a stipulation that Rodriguez be called up to the major leagues no later than September 1994.

In 1994, Rodriguez played in 65 games at Class A Appleton, hitting .319, and 17 games at Class AA Jacksonville, batting .288. In mid-season, at the urging of Mariners manager Lou Piniella , he went directly to the major leagues. Still only 18 years old, he debuted on July 8, 1994, the youngest player in an American League starting lineup since Toronto's Brian Milner in 1978. Superstar Ken Griffey, Jr. insisted that Rodriguez be given a locker next to his, and from that time on Griffey both teased and advised Rodriguez. At 6 foot 3 and 195 pounds, the new kid was unusually big for a shortstop and exuded incredible confidence. "I know I'm ready," he revealed to Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated. A right-handed batter, Rodriguez was hitless in three at-bats in his debut but had his first two major league hits the following day. Later that year Rodriguez was sent down to Class AAA Calgary. After the 1994 season, he played winter ball in the Dominican Republic and hit only .197, later describing it to Verducci as "the toughest experience of my life." Rodriguez returned for another call-up in 1995 after spending most of the year at Class AAA Tacoma. The Mariners knew he could play great defense, but he showed no signs of being a powerful hitter in his first two partial seasons, and when the Mariners played in two post-season series, Rodriguez stayed on the bench except for two at-bats.

Breakthrough to Stardom

In 1996, his first full year, Rodriguez put together an incredible season, becoming the youngest player since Detroit's Al Kaline in 1955 to win a batting championship. He hit .356, the highest batting average by a right-handed batter in the major leagues in 57 years, and scored 141 runs, with 23 home runs and 54 doubles, a new single-season record for two baggers by a shortstop. On August 29, he had five hits in a game. His 379 total bases for the season tied the all-time record for shortshops set by Ernie Banks . Rodriguez won the Silver Slugger Award as the best-hitting shortstop in the league, an honor he would get almost annually thereafter. Because of his earlier stints in the two previous seasons, Rodriguez was not eligible for the American League Rookie of the Year award, which went to the New York Yankees' shortstop Derek Jeter. He also narrrowly lost the Most Valuable Player Award to Juan Gonzalez of Texas but was named Major League Player of the Year by the Sporting News.

Baseball pundits proclaimed that Rodriguez's ceiling was unlimited, and magazines gushed over his posterboy good looks. Well-mannered, well-read, and quiet, he still made his home with his mother, and made it clear that his goal was to treat people with respect, like his idol Ripken. In the off-season, Rodriguez took classes in writing and political science at Miami-Dade Community College. He also played golf regularly.

The following year Rodriguezwho had acquired the nickname "A-Rod" to distinguish him from other players with the same last name, such as Texas's Ivan Rodriguezexperienced a "sophomore slump." But a subpar year for Rodriguez would be considered a career year for most players: he hit .300 with 23 homers and 84 runs batted in. On June 5 he became the first player in Seattle Mariners history to hit for the cycle in a nine-inning game.

Chronology

1975 Born in New York City
1979 Family moves from New York City to Dominican Republic
1983 Family moves from Dominican Republic to Miami, Florida
1992 Leads Westminister Christian High School to national baseball championship
1993 Drafted by Seattle Mariners as first pick overall
1994 Makes major league debut with Seattle Mariners
1996 First full season in majors is one of best ever for a shortstop
2000 Signs record $252 million, 10-year contract with Texas Rangers
2001-02 Establishes new single-season records for home runs by a shortstop

In 1998, "A-Rod" became the third player in major league history up to that point to hit at least 40 home runs and steal at least 40 bases in a season, with 42 home runs and 46 steals to go with a .310 batting average and 124 runs batted in. He set an American League single-season record for home runs by a shortstop, and he became the fourth-youngest player in history to hit 100 career home runs. In April, he equaled the American League record of eight extra base hits in three consecutive games. On August 18, he had another five-hit game.

During spring training in 1999, Rodriguez tore cartilage in his knee doing an agility exercise. He underwent knee surgery and missed the first month of the regular season, yet he still managed to equal his previous high of 42 home runs and also drove in 111 runs. In August he homered in five consecutive games. However, the knee injury and a subsequent second knee injury slowed down Rodriguez on the bases, and his stolen base totals declined dramatically from 46 in 1998 to only nine in 2002.

Griffey, threatening to leave Seattle as a free agent, was traded to Cincinnati over the off-season, and in 2000 opposing pitchers refused to give Rodriguez much to hit. For the first time in his career Rodriguez had 100 walks, but he still managed 41 home runs and 132 RBI. On Sept. 30, Rodriguez had five hits, including two home runs, and drove in seven runs.

Record Contract

Rodriguez made $4.3 million in 2000 for the Mariners and was eligible to become a free agent after the season ended. Negotiations in which Rodriguez reportedly asked for perks such as the use of a private jet tarnished his image as a wholesome, hard-working player. Seattle could not afford to keep Rodriguez, and he used Boras to negotiate the richest contract in sports history, signing a $252 million, ten-year deal with the Texas Rangers in December 2000. It was more money than any baseball player had earned in an entire career and more than the assessed value of 18 of the 30 major-league teams. The quarter-billion-dollar contract became international news and fueled countless commentaries about how salaries for professional sports indicated priorities were misplaced in the United States. The deal also became a rallying cry for baseball executives who wanted to institute contract changes to get spending under control.

Seattle felt betrayed, and its fans expressed their unhappiness with Rodriguez's decision to forsake the team that had given him his start. When Texas played the Mariners in Seattle on April 16, 2001, fans threw phony dollar bills all over the field.

"I never dreamed I'd be making this kind of money," said Rodriguez. "I'm embarrassed to talk about it." He was not too embarrassed, however, to make lucrative endorsement deals with Nike, Armani, and Radio Shack. But he also did public service announcements in a national campaign for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America; as a child, Rodriguez had spent a lot of time at Miami's club after his parents' divorce.

Ironically, without its best player, Seattle won the most games of any team in baseball in 2001, while the Rangers finished in last place. Rodriguez expressed no regrets about leaving Seattle and spoke about his admiration for previous players who broke baseball's old reserve clause which bound players to one team for life. "Not one day goes by when I don't remind myself how grateful I am for those who came before me over the last 25 years," Rodriguez explained to Verducci.

The Lone Ranger

[Rodriguez's $252 million contract] is the symbol of his generation's prosperity and of the game's emphasis on finances. His contract is the smoking gun for disillusioned fans in their case against overpaid ballplayers.

And yet he is also the poster boy for those who cherish the game". According to to Rangers owner Tom Hicks, the man who enriched him: " Why is it that people want to criticize our best player when he should be celebrated?"

Since Hicks gave him the 10-year contract, Rodriguez has played 298 straight games while hitting .317 with 100 home runs. Moreover, he is the unchallenged team leader who upbraids rookies and veterans alike and is such a baseball junkie that he watches games and highlights until 3 a.m.

Source: Verducci, Tom. Sports Illustrated, September 9, 2002: 34.

Awards and Accomplishments

1996 American League batting champion
1996 Sets all-time single-season records for doubles, matches record for total bases by a shortstop
1996 Leads American League in doubles
1996, 1998-2001 Leads American League in runs
1996, 2001-02 Leads American League in total bases
1996, 2002 Sporting News Major League Player of the Year
1996-2002 Silver Slugger Award, best-hitting American League shortstop
1996-1998, 2000-02 American League All-Star Team
1997 Hits for the cycle in game against Detroit
1998 Leads American League in hits
1998 Leads American League in at-bats
1998 Sets American League single-season record for home runs by a shortstop
2001 Leads American League in extra-base hits
2001 Sets major league single-season record for home runs by a shortstop
2001-02 Leads American League in home runs
2001-02 Leads American League in games played
2002 Leads American League in runs batted in
2002 Sporting News Major League Player of the Year
2002 Gold Glove, American League
2002 Hank Aaron Award, American League's top batter
2002 Breaks own major league record for home runs by a shortstop
2002 Player of the Year, Players' Choice Awards
2003 Wins Ted Williams Award as the major league's top hitter in 2002

While he was skewered among fans and non-baseball commentators, among those in the game Rodriguez continued to be held in high regard. "Every big league player should aspire to be like Alex Rodriguez, and I'm not just talking about his talent," Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove told Verducci. "I'm talking about the way he goes about his business, his attention to detail and his respect for the game." And Texas manager Jerry Narron said in the same article: "He is without a doubt the best player in baseball, but that's not what impresses me the most. I only hope that someday he might be as good a player as he is a person."

With Texas, Rodriguez continued to expand his power while playing in all 162 games in each of his first two seasons as a Ranger. On May 12, 2001, he hit his 200th home run, becoming the fifth-youngest player to reach that mark. In 2001, Rodriguez set a new major league single-season record for home runs by a shortstop. He finished with 52 home runs and 135 RBI while batting .318. Rodriguez became a clubhouse leader, trying to inspire the lesser talents around him into better performances. He also deferred several million dollars of his salary to try to help Texas become a more competitive team.

In 2002, Rodriguez had another great, batting .300 with a league-leading 57 home runs and 142 RBI despite a slow start. He finished the season with 298 career home runs. At age 27, he had established himself as probably the best all-around player in baseball, winning his first Gold Glove in 2002 despite stiff competition from the league's other premiere shortstops, such as Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra of the Boston Red Sox, Omar Vizquel of the Cleveland Indians, and Miguel Tejada of the Oakland As. Though having clearly the finest offensive season in the league, A-Rod finished second in the Most Valuable Player voting to Tejada, because many of the baseball writers who vote on the MVP refused to give top honors to players from teams with losing records.

Career Statistics

Yr Team AVG GP AB R H HR RBI BB SO SB E
SEA: Seattle Mariners; TEX: Texas Rangers.
1994 SEA .204 17 54 4 11 0 2 3 20 3 6
1995 SEA .232 48 142 15 33 5 19 6 42 4 8
1996 SEA .358 146 601 141 215 36 123 59 104 15 15
1997 SEA .300 141 587 100 176 23 84 41 99 29 24
1998 SEA .310 161 686 123 213 42 124 45 121 46 18
1999 SEA .285 129 502 110 143 42 111 56 109 21 14
2000 SEA .316 148 554 134 175 41 132 100 121 15 10
2001 TEX .318 162 632 133 201 52 135 75 131 18 18
2002 TEX .300 162 624 125 187 57 142 87 122 9 10
TOTAL .309 1114 4382 885 1354 298 872 472 869 160 123

Rodriguez was one of many players of his era to change the image of shortstop from that of a light-hitting, slick-fielding player to an overall offensive and defensive powerhouse. Despite all his remarkable batting feats, Rodriguez insisted to Baseball Digest 's Evan Grant: "The way I can most help my team win is with defense." Studious, movie-star handsome, quiet, and hard-working, Rodriguez might have been held in higher regard as a model athlete if he had not also been the symbol of the modern athlete's apparently unbridled greed. No matter the size of his contract, however, it appeared certain that Rodriguez would fulfill the greatness that had been predicted for him since he was in high school.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Books

The Baseball Encyclopedia. Macmillan, 1997.

Periodicals

"Alex Rodriguez (The 25 Most Intriguing People 2000." People. 54 (December 25, 2000): 75.

Antonen, Mel. "Alex Rodriguez: Master of Baseball Arts."Baseball Digest. 59 (December 2000): 60.

"Baseball: A-Rod at the Double as Players' Votes Make Him Baseball's No. 1."European Intelligence Wire. (October 18, 2002).

Berardino, Mike. "Looks Like A-Rod Can't Win for Losing."Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, (September 9, 2002): K6848.

Callahan, Gerry. "The Fairest of Them All."Sports Illustrated, 85 (July 8, 1996): 38.

Coppola, Vincent. "At Bat for the Boys & Girls Clubs." Adweek. 23 (February 18, 2002): 4.

Grant, Evan. "Texas'Alex Rodriguez: A Complete Package of Talent."Baseball Digest. 61 (March 2002): 24.

Hein, Kenneth. "Radio Shack Shacks Up with New Pitchmen." Brandweek, 42 (July 2, 2001): 8.

Hickey, John. "Mariners' Shortstop Alex Rodriguez Not a Typical Superstar." Baseball Digest. 59 (July 2000): 40.

Kaplan, Ben. "Boy Wonder!"Sports Illustrated for Kids, 9 (July 1997): 36.

Knisley, Michael. "All A-Rod All the Time."Sporting News, 223 (June 28, 1999): 12.

Morrissey, Rick. "Seattle Fans Go Too Easy on Rodriguez."Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service (Chicago Tribune), (July 9, 2001): K7804.

Rains, Rob. "A New Standard."Sporting News, 220 (October 14, 1996): 19.

"Ready for His Close-Up: After Signing his Megadeal, A-Rod is Living like a Megastar." Newsweek, (April 9, 2001): 54.

Verducci, Tom. "Early Riser." Sports Illustrated, 81 (July 18, 1994): 39.

Verducci, Tom. "The Lone Ranger."Sports Illustrated, 97 (September 9, 2002): 34.

Other

"Alex Rodriguez." Baseball Library.com, http://www.pubdim.net/baseballlibrary/ballplayers/R/Rodriguez_Alex.stm (December 26, 2002).

"Alex Rodriguez." CNNSI.com Baseball, http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/baseball/mlb/players/3099/latest_news.html (December 26, 2002).

baseball-reference.com, http://www.baseball-reference.com (December 26, 2002).

"Ken Griffey Jr." Baseball Library.com, http://www.pubdim.net/baseballlibrary/ballplayers/G/Griffey_Ken.stm (December 27, 2002).

Sketch by Michael Betzold

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Rodríguez, Alex

Rodríguez, Alex

July 27, 1975 New York, New York

Baseball player

Baseball fans say that Alex Rodríguez may just break a number of career records in the game. Before he joined the New York Yankees in 2004 he had already achieved the famous "40-40" number: forty home runs and forty stolen bases in one season. He was the first infielder in the history of the game to achieve it. But "A-Rod," as fans call him, also broke another significant record off the baseball diamond. In 2000 the Texas Rangers signed him to a record $252 million, ten-year contract. It made him the highest paid athlete in American sports history.

Father left the family

The future baseball great was born Alexander Emmanuel Rodríguez in New York City in 1975, and had two older siblings. His father, Victor, had been a baseball player back in the Dominican Republic, but was running a shoe store in Manhattan by the time the third Rodríguez child was born. In 1979, when Rodríguez was four years old, Victor retired and took his family to the Dominican Republic. The family lived there for three years, and moved back to the United States when Rodríguez was seven. They settled in Miami, Florida, but Victor, who had taught his son the basics of baseball, left the family a few years later.

With the family finances tight, Rodríguez's mother, Lourdes, had to work two jobs. By day she was a secretary at the local immigration office. At night she waited tables in a restaurant. "When Mom got home, I'd always count her tip money to see how good she did," Rodríguez recalled in an interview with People writer Alex Tresniowski. "She taught me the meaning of hard work and commitment."

Lourdes also encouraged her son's love of baseball. He played for the local Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami teams, where a coach, Eddie Rodríguez (no relation to the family), pushed him to excel and came to serve as a father-figure. At Miami's Westminster Christian High School, Rodríguez emerged as an outstanding athlete in both football and baseball. Scouts for Major League Baseball (MLB) teams came to see him play, and he became the top pick in the June draft of 1993.

Made it through tough rookie year

Rodríguez was signed by the Seattle Mariners, but he and his mother had also hired a hard-nosed agent, Scott Boras, to hammer out the details of his contract. The negotiations lasted all summer. He was all set to put his backup plan in motion and enter the University of Miami, but just hours before his first class was about to start, the Mariners agreed to a $1.3 million, three-year contract.

"I don't get caught up in the hype. I'd play even if I had to pay someone to let me play."

During his first season Rodríguez played for all the teams in the Seattle organization. He first played in Appleton, Wisconsin, and then went on to a Class AA team in Jacksonville, Florida. Then the Mariners' coach, Lou Piniella (1943), decided to bring him in for his first Major League game. Rodríguez was just eighteen years old when he played in his first MLB game at Fenway Park in Boston on July 8, 1994. He was the youngest player in ten years to make his Major League debut.

A-Rod's Dad

Alex Rodríguez was nine years old when his father, Victor, left the family. The former Dominican Republic ball player and shoe store owner reportedly wanted to move back to New York City, while Rodríguez's mother, Lourdes, wanted to stay in Miami. The boy was not told at first about the split, although his older brother and sister knew the truth. "I kept thinking my father would come back, but he never did," Rodríguez recalled in an interview with Sports Illustrated writer Gerry Callahan.

Rodríguez inherited his love of baseball from his father. But because his mother worked two jobs to support the family, it was hard for her to come to watch his youth league games. Rodríguez recalled the sadness he felt when he saw his teammates' fathers cheer their sons. "After a while, I lied to myself," Rodríguez admitted in a 1998 Seattle Times interview. "I tried to tell myself that it didn't matter, that I didn't care. But times I was alone, I often cried. Where was my father?"

Rodríguez emerged as a talented high school player and was drafted by the Seattle Mariners. The news of the draft was chronicled in the newspapers, and Rodríguez's father finally contacted him that same week. "I didn't even know where he was calling from," Rodríguez told the Seattle Times. "I didn't know what to think. It was nice, but it didn't make much impression on me, not after all that time." The next year, when Rodríguez had been sent down to the Dominican Republic to play in its winter baseball league, his father showed up one day at batting practice. "When this man told me who he was, I almost broke down," Rodríguez told the Seattle Times. They talked and made plans to meet the next day, but Rodríguez cancelled their lunch appointment.

But Victor Rodríguez also read the Seattle Times article, and was saddened. The superstar athlete also felt a little bit of remorse, and arranged to have a satellite television dish delivered to his estranged father's house so that he could watch the Mariners' games. They met the following winter, and had another reunion that took place on Father's Day of 2000. "I wish I could tell you I had planned it that way," Rodríguez told the Seattle Times afterward, about the symbolic holiday meeting. "But I only thought that it was time, that I was ready and that I wanted to see my dad."

After a few more Mariners' games, Rodríguez was sent to play winter baseball in the Dominican Republic for extra practice. He did poorly in that 1994-95 season, batting just .179, and went up against many young and talented players from around the world. "It was the toughest experience of my life," he told Sports Illustrated 's Gerry Callahan. "I just got my tail kicked and learned how hard this game can be. It was brutal, but I recommend it to every young player."

Rodríguez played again with the Mariners during the 1995 season. He was thrilled when they beat the New York Yankees for the American League East title, though he made few post-season appearances on the field. He finished the year with a batting average of .232. But in 1996 Rodríguez began to shine as the Mariners' shortstop in his first full season in the majors. He also was the season base leader in the League that year, at 379, breaking a record that had held since 1955. In the Most Valuable Player (MVP) contest, one of the League's most coveted awards, he lost out by just three votes to Juan González (1969).

Dubbed "A-Rod"

However, the sports journalists who cast their ballots for the MVP award also began to describe Rodríguez as one of the most promising new athletes in the game. Sports Illustrated magazine featured him on the cover in July of 1996, and in the accompanying article Gerry Callahan wrote that the six-foot, three-inch Rodríguez was "195 pounds of pure skill and grace, an immensely gifted shortstop who routinely leaves baseball people drooling over their clipboards. He can run, hit, hit for power and make all the plays in the field." Sporting News named him Player of the Year after the regular season finished. Shortstop Ernie Banks (1931), who had set the 379 bases record back in 1955, was enthusiastic about Rodríguez's future. "Alex Rodriguez is going to do things I never came close to doing," Banks told Sporting News writer Rob Rains. "I don't want to put pressure on him, but he's going to set a new standard for shortstops."

With such numbers, Rodrígueznow known among baseball fans by his nickname "A-Rod"and his agent had little trouble negotiating a new contract with the Mariners, one that gave the player $10.6 million over the next four years. But Rodríguez hit a rough patch the next year, with just a .300 batting average and only 23 home runs for the season, although the Mariners finished the 1997 season once again in first place in the American League West. He had a better year in 1998: he became only the third player in MLB history to achieve the 40-40 number, with 42 home runs and 46 stolen bases. Only Jose Canseco (1964) and Barry Bonds (1964) had attained 40-40 before him, and Rodríguez was also the first infielder in baseball history to hit that mark.

Rodríguez's second contract expired at the end of the 2000 season and he became a free agent, which left him free to sign his own deal with any other team. There was talk that he might join the New York Mets, but the negotiations stalled. He was on a December vacation in Las Vegas with some friends when Boras, his agent, phoned him to tell him the news that made headlines soon afterward: Boras had negotiated a contract for Rodríguez with the Texas Rangers that gave him $252 million over ten years. It was a baseball and professional sports record that amounted to about $170,270 a game for Rodríguez.

The Rangers' new hope

But Rodríguez was joining a troubled team that usually finished in last place in their league's division, the American League West. The Arlington-based team was owned by a Dallas investor named Tom Hicks. In 1998 Hicks had paid $250 million for the Rangers. He bought the team from a group of investors that included Texas Governor George W. Bush (1946). Rodríguez's record salary deal was announced in December of 2000, just as Bush was about to leave the governor's office for the White House. The newest Texas Ranger was the talk of Texas, and even the president-elect weighed in on the matter. "When you pay more for your shortstop than you paid for your team, that ought to be a warning sign that your labor costs are out of control," Bush told Texas Monthly 's Paul Burka.

Rodríguez was deemed the man to lead the team to victory in 2001. The Rangers, it was said, were buying not only Rodríguez's impressive athletic talents, but also some of the A-Rod star power that would bring more fans to games at the Rangers' ballpark in Arlington. Others criticized him for setting an entirely new record in baseball as the highest paid player in a sport that already signed astronomical paychecks. At the Rangers' first game at Safeco Field, his former Seattle fans jeered him. Some even held up signs with nasty comments and a new nickname: "Pay-Rod."

The Rangers did poorly, despite Rodríguez's impressive statistics. The team remained in fourth place in the American League West standings, finishing 73-89 in 2001 and 72-90 in 2002. Meanwhile Rodríguez continued to set home run records. He reached number forty-eight in September of 2001, a new League record for home runs hit by shortstops. On April 30, 2002, he became the second youngest player in baseball history to hit 250 career home runs.

Back in hometown

But Rodríguez's talents could not save a struggling team, and attendance at the ballpark plummeted during 2003. With ticket sales down, Hicks was forced to trade Rodríguez, whom he could no longer afford to keep. There was talk that Rodríguez might sign with the Boston Red Sox, but instead the Rangers traded him to the legendary New York Yankees in February of 2004. Since his friend, Derek Jeter (1974), was already the shortstop for the New York team, Rodríguez was hired to play third base at the famous Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

New York's large Dominican-American community was over-joyed by the news. Rodríguez had spent the first four years of his life in Washington Heights, the section of Manhattan where a large number of Dominican Americans live, and had cousins who still lived in the area. He was also happy to be playing for a powerhouse team. The Yankees' owner was a fierce, vastly wealthy business mogul named George Steinbrenner (1930), and the team was known as the richest in baseball. Steinbrenner regularly sought to sign the top players in the game, and it showed. Since 1996 the Yankees had made it to six World Series playoffs and won four of those contests.

Rodríguez is married to Cynthia, a school teacher, and has said that he still hopes to earn his college degree and perhaps even a graduate business degree some day. One of his dreams is to own a small Italian restaurant. Fast Company writer Alan Schwarz asked Rodríguez, the son of immigrants from one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, if he thinks he is "living the American dream." The highest paid athlete in professional sports said no, not yet. "To me," he replied, "the American dream is all about having a family, raising kids, spending time with them at the end of the day, and sending them to college."

For More Information

Periodicals

Burka, Paul. "Spare the A-Rod." Texas Monthly (February 2001): p. 7.

Callahan, Gerry. "The Fairest of Them All." Sports Illustrated (July 8, 1996): p. 38.

"For Alex, Move to New York Has Taste of Home." New York Daily News (February 16, 2004). This article can also be found online at http://www.nydailynews.com.

Knisley, Michael. "All A-Rod All the Time." Sporting News (June 28, 1999): p. 12.

"Missing Dad in the 13 Years Since His Father Left, Alex Rodriguez Has Found Fortune and Fame in Seattle, But Has Been Unable to Reconcile with the Man Who Vanished. (Sports.)" Seattle Times (March 22, 1998): p. D1.

Rains, Rob. "A New Standard. (Player of the Year Winner Alex Rodriguez.)" Sporting News (October 14, 1996): p. 19.

Ribowsky, Mark. "The Ancient Mariner?" Sport (July 2000): p. 32.

"Rodriguez, Estranged Father Take Steps to Restore Bond." Seattle Times (June 23, 2000): p. D8.

Schwarz, Alan. "60 Seconds with Alex Rodriguez." Fast Company (September 2003): p. 44.

Stein, Joel. "Lord of the Swings: It's Hard Not to Like A-Rod, Baseball's Best, Best-Paid and Most Diplomatic Player. Except That He's a Yankee." Time (April 5, 2004): p. 68.

Tresniowski, Alex. "Golden Guy: The Big Bucks Stop Here, in the Sure Hands of Texas Shortstop Alex Rodriguez." People (April 16, 2001): p. 83.

Verducci, Tom. "Stumbling Start: Already Paying Dividends for the Rangers off the Field, Alex Rodriguez Tripped All over Himself During His Debut with Texas." Sports Illustrated (April 9, 2001): p. 56.

Verducci, Tom. "The Lone Ranger: Everyone Knows Alex Rodriguez Is Baseball's Highest-Paid Player, but Unless You're a Die-Hard Fan of Last-Place Texas, You Might Not Realize He's the Best Player in the Game." Sports Illustrated (September 9, 2002): p. 34.

Web Sites

"Timeline: Alex Rodriguez." SI.com: Sports Illustrated. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/baseball/mlb/features/Rodriguez/timeline/ (accessed on June 12, 2004).

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Rodriguez, Alex 1975-

Rodriguez, Alex 1975-

Personal

Born July 27, 1975, in New York, NY; son of Victor Rodriguez Sr.; married Cynthia Scurtis (a teacher), November 2, 2002; children: Natasha, Ella.

Addresses

Home and office—New York, NY; and Miami, FL.

Career

Professional baseball player. Seattle Mariners, shortstop, 1994-2000; Texas Rangers, shortstop, 2000-03; New York Yankees, third baseman, beginning 2004.

Awards, Honors

American League Most Valuable Player, Major-League Baseball, 2003, 2005; University of Miami honorary alumnus designation, 2004, and Edward T. Foote II Alumnus of Distinction Award, 2007; numerous other sports awards.

Writings

(With Greg Brown) Hit a Grand Slam, illustrated by Doug Keith, Taylor Publishing (Dallas, TX), 1998.

Out of the Ballpark, illustrated by Frank Morrison, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2007.

Sidelights

Although Alex Rodriguez was born in New York City, it was only after he and his family moved to the Dominican Republic that he learned how to play baseball. Rodriguez hit his first home run at age six, two years before he and family returned to the United States and settled in Miami, Florida. Watching his mother work two jobs in order to make ends meet for the family, he decided that the best way to make his own way in the world would be to become a professional baseball player. That dream has since been realized; Rodriguez is a star player for the New York Yankees and was named Major League Baseball's Most Valuable Player in both 2003 and 2005. Known to his fans as "A-Rod," Rodriguez maintains baseball credentials that make him one of the top players in baseball history as well as the youngest player ever to hit 500 home runs.

In Out of the Ballpark Rodriguez incorporates aspects of his own childhood in telling the story of a young boy who puts all his efforts into becoming a better ball player. Alex is always fumbling when it comes to playing baseball and he wants to help his team win the championship. The boy commits himself to hard work and persistence in order to achieve his goal, his progress documented in the photographs from Rodriguez's actual youth. In Publishers Weekly a reviewer cited the book's "expected but still satisfying climax." A Kirkus Reviews writer predicted that while the visually pleasing illustrations by artist Frank Morrison will engage children, older readers "will find the insight into A-Rod's complex character rather more engaging." John Peters, writing an assessment of Out of the Ballpark for Booklist, observed of the work that celebrity author Rodriguez "promotes both directly and indirectly the customary possibility of achieving dreams."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, March 15, 2007, John Peters, review of Out of the Ballpark, p. 55.

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2007, review of Out of the Ballpark, p. 128.

Publishers Weekly, February 5, 2007, review of Out of the Ballpark, p. 58.

School Library Journal, May, 2007, Marilyn Taniguchi, review of Out of the Ballpark, p. 107.

ONLINE

Alex Rodriguez Official Web site,http://www.AROD.com (June 15, 2008).

HarperCollins Web site,http://www.harpercollins.com/ (June 8, 2008), "Alex Rodriguez."

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Rodriguez, Alex

Alex Rodriguez (Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez) (rōdrē´gəs), 1975–, American baseball player, b. New York City. Drafted (1993) out of high school by the Seattle Mariners as the first pick overall, he debuted in the majors the following year but played partial seasons then and in 1995. In the major leagues full-time from 1996, "A-Rod," a superb shortstop and right-handed hitter, led the American League in batting average (.358) that year. He began averaging more than 40 home runs a year in 1998, and subsequently became the youngest player to hit 300, 400, 500, and 600 homers (in 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2010). In Dec., 2000, he left the Mariners, signing what was then the richest-ever contract in professional sports with the Texas Rangers, with whom he was the AL's home-run leader in 2001–3. Named the AL's Most Valuable Player in 2003, he won a trade to the New York Yankees, and moved to third base defensively in 2004. Rodriguez was again league MVP in 2005 and 2007, when he also led the league in home runs. His extraordinary career was tarnished in 2009 when, after years of rumor and denial, he admitted to using steroids during the 2001–3 seasons; it also was revealed that in 2003 he had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Because of the drug use, he was suspended for the entire 2014 season. He subsequently passed (2015) the 2,000 mark for runs batted in and the 3,000 mark for hits.

See biography by S. Roberts (2009).

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