Rodriguez back in Texas, this time to retire

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Associated Press
April 24, 2012
— Ivan Rodriguez made one last throw from behind home plate to second base at Rangers Ballpark.

The 14-time All-Star catcher announced his retirement Monday, ending a 21-season playing career spent mostly in Texas. The Rangers then honored him with a pregame ceremony that ended with a unique first pitch.

Rodriguez initially went to the mound while Michael Young, the team’s longest-tenured player, set up to receive the pitch. But that didn’t seem right, so Young ran out to second base and Rodriguez, already wearing a catcher’s mitt, went behind the plate to a huge cheer and made a familiar throw across the diamond.

Earlier in the day, his eyes glistened and Rodriguez spoke slowly at first when he said he wouldn’t play again. It came nearly 21 years after the fan favorite known as Pudge made his major league debut as a 19-year-old with the Rangers and later played for five other teams.

“It’s a very hard day for me,” Rodriguez said. “It’s been a great, great run. ... It’s been beautiful.”

Rodriguez was surrounded at the podium by his wife and his three children, including his 19-year-old son who is a prospect in the Minnesota Twins organization. He thanked his parents and brother who sat in the front row for supporting him since he started playing baseball at age 5 in Puerto Rico.

Rodriguez plans to remain in baseball in some capacity, and Rangers president Nolan Ryan said there have already been some preliminary discussions about making that happen.

“I’m always going to be in baseball the rest of my life,” Rodriguez said. “I’ll be in baseball, and I’ll be active and I’ll be doing things, you’ll definitely see me around.”

Rodriguez caught a major league record 2,427 games, surpassing Carlton Fisk’s record of 2,226 during a game for the Houston Astros three years ago at Rangers Ballpark. It was later that season that Pudge returned briefly to the Rangers, the team he played for the first 12 of his 21 seasons.

“It was interesting to have witnessed Pudge’s career and be involved in it at the start and see the player that he grew to be and the impact that he had on our organization,” said Ryan, the Hall of Fame pitcher who was still playing when Rodriguez made his major league debut on June 20, 1991.

The pregame ceremony before the series opener against the New York Yankees included a video of highlights from the 13 seasons Rodriguez spent in Texas.

Rodriguez hit .296 with 311 home runs and 1,332 RBIs in 2,543 games overall with Texas (1991-2002, 2009), Florida (2003), Detroit (2004-08), the Yankees (2008), Houston (2009), and Washington (2010-11). His 13 Gold Gloves were the most for a catcher.

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