Aug 15, 2012, 1:23 PM EDT
OTB was lucky enough to catch a call with future Hall of Fame catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez. He mused about a long career of home runs and rocket ship throws to second. Base stealers can finally breathe a sigh of relief, Pudge is a retired man.
OTB: How’s it been, Pudge? What’ve you been up to since retirement?
Pudge: Right now I’m keeping myself in shape, working out and hanging with my family. I’m enjoying it!
Any plans to come back to baseball as a manager or coach in the future?
That’s something I could try. I might do it later on. It’s too early right now, but it’s something that could really interest me down the road.
Have you been watching a lot of baseball, and do your old baseball senses intervene when you’re watching, like saying, “Oh man, they should have thrown the fastball there, the hitter was totally gearing up for an off speed pitch and they could have caught him off guard”. Or “I know exactly what that guy is doing wrong, if I were only on the field I could help him get out of his slump”.
I watch a lot of baseball and I really do still miss the game. When you play for 24 years and all of a sudden you’re watching the game on TV, it’s a transition. I’m feeling great and now it’s time for the young guys to come in and do their jobs. Baseball this year is very interesting, and there are a lot of good things I see. Anything can happen.
One of my favorite moments of your career was when you almost beat Bobby Abreu at the home run derby. You weren’t a big home run hitter at that stage in your career and then you went out there and you showed everybody, hey, I still got it. Was that a lot of fun?
Yeah, it was a lot of fun. It’s a little different than playing a game. The speed of the pitcher is not the same and you are only there to hit the ball over the fence. But it was a ton of fun. The home run derby is always great because you’re doing it for the fans and I had a good time that day.
No doubt about that. You saw all the sluggers around you and then, out of the blue, you’re the guy in the finals. How crazy was that? Did you expect it at all?
Ha! Well first of all, I’m not a home run hitter! But that year they picked a player from each country to represent which was great. I didn’t realize I was going to be hitting that long into the finals but things can happen that are extraordinary and that was one of those things. I got a good swing that day, and I was hitting the balls out of the park.
One of the amazing things about your career is you played for over twenty years, as a catcher! That’s a lot of wear and tear on your knees as you’re always squatting. Now other positions like outfielders, that makes a lot of sense but you incredibly kept going until you were 40 as a catcher. How was that possible?
Working out, keeping myself in shape with good discipline. To play the game of baseball for such a long time, you have to have incredible discipline with yourself and that’s what I did my whole career. I had a good work ethic, pretty much working out every day even through the season. I worked out in the mornings. That was the key to me for playing all of those years.
You were always regarded as one of the best defensive catchers of all time but all of a sudden you developed your offensive game, surrounded by all of those offensive stars in Texas, like A-Rod and Juan and Rafael Palmeiro. Did they help you at all? Did they teach you important tips that improved your hitting?
Well, when I got called up in ’91 I was surrounded by all of those veteran guys who were in the league for a long time and no doubt I learned from them a lot. I had some great coaches that taught me. What to do, what not to do. But basically I loved to play the game of baseball, and that’s what I did. I was working on game days, on my off days, every single day. I came up because of my defense, not my bat but during the years I worked very hard with Rudy Jaramillo (a highly respected hitting coach many players have credited with turning their careers around) and he was very influential with me. We worked together to improve my swing and when I came up he was in the big league club, and he helped me so much to stay inside of the ball, hit the ball the other way, wait for the ball, patience. Don’t swing too hard! He taught me to be a good hitter. After that, I became a great hitter, I think.
I talked to Joe Mauer once and he said one of the worst part about being a catcher was how his left hand became numb from all of the fastballs hitting his glove, which hurt him in his later at bats. Did that ever effect you with your offensive game?
Yeah, every now and then. I always had a way to catch the ball in my glove pretty much in the sweet spot of the glove to protect my hands in that area. But yeah, sometimes at the end of the game it hurts when you’re catching those middle 90’s to 100 MPH baseballs, it’s going to be different than the low 90’s or 89. Basically in my career I worked to make sure I received the ball well in my glove and I didn’t really have much problem with that as long as I was receiving correctly.
Thank you Pudge, and good luck.
Thank you too.
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