COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (AP) — Before he plopped down on a director’s chair in the Baseball Hall of Fame’s plaque gallery to field questions, Ivan Rodriguez marveled at the bronze images of the greatest names of baseball’s past hanging on the walls.
“Here’s my new home,” Rodriguez said Tuesday. “I think it’s great just to be part of the family because I think all the Hall of Famers, now, we are a family.”
In his first year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s Hall of Fame ballot, Rodriguez received 76 percent of the votes. He became the second catcher elected on the first ballot, joining his boyhood idol, former Cincinnati Reds star Johnny Bench.
Six weeks after earning election, Rodriguez and wife Patricia received the customary tour of baseball’s shrine that all new electees are offered to prepare them for induction weekend.
In 21 seasons, spent mainly with the Texas Rangers, the durable catcher was selected to 14 All-Star Games and won a record 13 Gold Gloves behind the plate. He holds the major league record for games caught (2,427) and putouts by a catcher (12,376) and ranked first in the AL in catching potential base stealers nine times. He was a career .296 hitter with 311 homers and nearly 2,900 hits and won the 1999 AL MVP.
Rodriguez attributed his defensive prowess, in part, to discipline.
“I think I just prepared myself,” he said. “I’m talking about blocking thousands of balls, making thousands of throws to second base, trying to throw the ball to the right side of the base. All that, I think, is the reason I had such a great defensive career. And that is what I always tell the kids — make sure your discipline is there. You can have ability, but if you don’t have discipline, if you don’t work on things you have to do, it’s going to be hard for you to do it in your career.”
During the Hall of Fame tour, special moments from Rodriguez’s career came flashing back: a baseball Detroit’s Justin Verlander threw in his 2007 no-hitter when Pudge was catching; his own Astros jersey from 2009 when he passed Carlton Fisk for most career games caught; his chest protector from 1998; the bat he used to hit his 35th home run in 1999.
“This has been a special day, for sure, just to be able to see all the uniforms and all the teams and all the Hall of Fame plaques here,” Rodriguez said. “And then to come here and see where my plaque is going to be in July, and then do the signing in the space where it’s going to be, it’s a dream.”
Former players Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines also will be inducted July 30 along with former baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and Atlanta vice chairman John Schuerholz, a former general manager of the Braves and Kansas City Royals.
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