Rodriguez, Alex: 1975—: Baseball Player
Alex Rodriguez: 1975—: Baseball player
Baseball player Alex Rodriguez has been inspiring fans for years with his style of play. He became a household name when he signed a $252-million contract with the Texas Rangers in December of 2001. Rodriguez has won numerous awards and is known for his versatile talent on the field and his good conduct off it.
Rodriguez, known as "A-Rod" to his fans, was born in New York City and lived briefly in the Dominican Republic before his family moved to Kendall, Florida, a suburb of Miami. His father, Victor, had played professional baseball in the Dominican Republic and taught the game to Rodriguez. However, when Rodriguez was ten years old, his father left the family. Rodriguez told Ben Kaplan in Sports Illustrated for Kids, "It was hard. I did my best to help out around the house and bring home good grades to make my mom proud." He became an honor student and a star shortstop at Miami's Westminster Christian School. He did his best to play like his hero, baseball great Cal Ripken of the Baltimore Orioles; he kept a life-sized poster of Ripken on the wall in his bedroom.
Westminster's baseball coach, Rich Hoffman, became like a second father to Rodriguez when he made the varsity team in tenth grade. Hoffman encouraged Rodriguez to improve his hitting and to lift weights to become stronger. By his junior season, he was batting .450, helping Westminster to win the 1992 national high school championship. In his senior year, he batted .505 and stole 35 bases in 35 attempts.
His talent attracted attention, and in the 1993 draft, the Seattle Mariners chose him with the first pick. After playing in only 82 minor league games, in 1994 Rodriguez was called up to Seattle after lengthy contract negotiations. Although he expected to be the Mariners' starting shortstop, the Mariners were in contention for the pennant and didn't think Rodriguez could deal with the pressure. They called him up and sent him back to the minors three times, leaving him frustrated and wanting to quit and go home. According to Phillips, his mother, Lourdes, said, "I don't want you home with that attitude. Whether you have a month left or three, you go out and play hard. You better care."
The advice paid off. In 1996, his first year in the major leagues, Rodriguez had thirty-six home runs, led the league in doubles (54), grand slams (3), total bases (397), and runs scored (141). He also drove in 123 runs and batted .358, the best in the major leagues. In addition, that year, at age twenty, Rodriguez became the youngest shortstop to play in an All-Star Game. He was also named the Sporting News Player of the Year. Rodriguez's idol, Cal Ripken, told Mike Phillips in the Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, "I doubt that I had that much talent coming in. He has talent that flows with every action."
At a Glance . . .
Career: Baseball player, Seattle Mariners, 1993-00; Texas Rangers, 2001–.
Awards: Sporting News, Player of the Year, 1996; Silver Slugger Award, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001; Rangers Player of the Year, 2001; American League,, Hank Aaron Award, 2001; American League, Player of the Year in Players Choice Award voting, 2001; Josh Gibson Legacy Award from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, 2001.
Address: Team —Texas Rangers, 1000 Ballpark Way, Arlington, TX 76011.
In 1997, according to Ben Kaplan in Sports Illustrated for Kids, Mariners' designated hitter Edgar Martinez said, "Alex has become a great player in a short time. He can run, throw, and field. He can hit for average and for power. He's also handled fame and attention well." In 1998 Rodriguez became the first "40-40" infielder in baseball—that is, the first to have 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases. He was only the third player in any position to achieve this.The following season a knee injury kept him on the disabled list for five weeks, but he still had a stellar year, with 42 home runs. According to Michael Knisley in Sporting News, baseball scout Rudy Terrasas praised Rodriguez's "power, his speed and his glove," and noted, "He's still young, with a tremendous upside…. For my money, if I was starting a club and needed a shortstop, considering his age and athleticism, he'd be my choice. If I had to take one, I'd take A-Rod."
Rodriguez's contract with the Mariners ended in 2000, and he was unsure whether he wanted to stay with the team. He told interviewer Mark Ribowsky in Sport that he would stay with the team if they went to the World Series. He agreed, however, that the team could have done better, saying, "We all could have done more to put us over the top. We did our best, but what we did wasn't good enough."
In December of 2000 Rodriguez became the best-paid ballplayer of all time when he signed a $252 million, ten-year free-agent contract with the Texas Rangers. Rangers owner Tom Hicks told People Weekly that Rodriguez "is the only person in baseball who would deserve this," but in Texas Monthly, Paul Burka objected, "The A-Rod contract is about business, not baseball," and noted that the expense of obtaining Rodriguez might hinder the Rangers from being able to attract and pay any other top players. In addition, People Weekly commented that the contract exemplified baseball officials' fears that baseball was becoming simply a financial contest between teams that could afford to hire top players and those that could not.
Although Rodriguez's good looks, personal charm, and clean lifestyle had made him a favorite of fans when he played for the Mariners, the expensive contract aroused anger and jealousy in fans. During the 2001 season, Rodriguez was booed by fans in cities around the United States, according to Ken Daley in Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service. Daley noted that fans' anger might cost Rodriguez a place in the 72nd All-Star Game, set for July 10 in Seattle. Rodriguez told Daley, "All I can do is keep playing, be the same person I've always been on the field, and a solid citizen off it."
Rodriguez did make the 2001 All-Star team. He also led the American League with 52 home run, 133 runs scored, and 393 total bases, although the Rangers as a whole did not do well that year. He told Mark Kram in the Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, "I understand that it is a process to get where we want to be. We have a plan in place here." By the end of the 2001 season, he had accumulated four consecutive 40-home-run seasons and had also set a single-season record for home runs in one year by a shortstop, with 52 homeruns.
Rodriguez was also involved in giving something back to the community from which he came. As a boy, Rodriguez was a member of the Hank Kline Boys and Girls Club in Miami, and he continued his association with the club as a national spokesperson for the youth development organization. The advertisements for the club appeared in both English and Spanish, and were the club's first bilingual campaign. Speaking of his phenomenal success, Rodriguez told Kram, "In the long run, you can only be judged by how you treat people, what kind of teammate you are, or how you play baseball." And, he told Alan Schwarz in Sports Illustrated for Kids, "I don't think money really changes you. You have to remember that it doesn't make you who you are. I might make a lot of money, and people make a big deal about it. I still see myself as just a baseball player."
Baseball Digest, July, 2000, p. 40; December, 2000,
p. 60; March, 2002, p. 24.
Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, July 8, 1994; July 13, 1996; May 8, 2001; July 21, 2002.
Newsweek, April 9, 2001, p. 54.
People Weekly, December 25, 2000, p. 75; May 14, 2001, p. 131.
PR Newswire, January 30, 2002.
Sport, June, 1997, p. 65; July, 2000, p. 32.
Sporting News, October 14, 1996, p. 19; June 28, 1999, p. 12.
Sports Illustrated, April 9, 2001, p. 56. Sports Illustrated for Kids, July, 1997, p. 36; July 1, 2002, p. 29.
Texas Monthly, February, 2001, p. 7.
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