June 14, 2013

Catching up with former Rangers star Pudge Rodriguez

Former Rangers catcher tries his hand at teaching baseball fundamentals at his summer camp.

Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez has returned to a local baseball diamond.

Rodriguez, who was elected last week to the Texas Rangers Baseball Hall of Fame, isn’t throwing out base runners or driving in runs as he did for 12-plus seasons with the Rangers. Instead Pudge is spending much of June running his baseball camps at All Saints Episcopal School in Fort Worth.

The former American League MVP is teaching young baseball players about the fundamentals of the game through four camps he has organized.

Nearly 60 eager ballplayers, ages 8-18, learned about throwing, hitting and catching from one of the game’s all-time greats. A portion of the camp’s proceeds will be donated to Cook Children’s Medical Center.

Rodriguez discussed why he started the camp, the current state of the Rangers and how he’s dealt with retirement.

This is the first camp you’ve put on at All Saints Episcopal School. Why did you decide to organize the camp here? Education is very important to me. My mom was a teacher for 21 years. She taught second grade. She also spent 20 years as a school director. She’s been teaching kids for a long, long time. It’s great to work together with a school, because I grew up that way. I love kids and that’s why we’re doing this. I love teaching them how to be good role models in the future and teach them how to play a great sport.

Is Texas still home for you? No. Well, I’m thinking about coming back and being here full time. But right now I’m commuting from Miami.

What kinds of things will you be working on at camp? We’re going to do a little bit of everything. Conditioning, hitting and fielding. But the main thing is I want them to have fun.

What does being elected to the Rangers Hall of Fame mean to you? It means a lot. When I heard about it, it was very happy news for me. It’s great. When you play for a long time and you did a good job, these things happen. It’s an honor. I look forward to the [induction] ceremony coming up in July.

What did you think about Juan Gonzalez’s decision to turn down his spot in the Rangers Hall of Fame? I think that was his decision. Sometimes those things are out of people’s hands. Sometimes you have to respect people’s decisions, and that was his decision.

You’ve been retired from professional baseball for a little more than a year. Do you miss it? I do. Right now, I’m good. But for the first five or six months after I retired, I missed baseball a lot. I’m back and I’m doing this. I’m working for the Rangers, too. I feel very comfortable with what I’m doing, and I’m happy right now.

What are your thoughts on the Rangers season so far? They’re doing well. We had a tough road trip this last week.... There’s still a long way to go. We’ve just got to go out there and play our best every night.

How has today’s game of baseball changed since your heyday in the late ’90s and early 2000s? Baseball changes every year. Today you can see some 19- and 20-year-olds in the big leagues doing a great job. As far as the conditioning and preparing to play on the field, it’s different. But in the end, it’s the same game. When you’re ready to come to the park and play, it’s the same sport. It’s a matter of focus and concentration. If you’ve got all that, then you’re going to be a great player. But my era compared to today, the only difference is more young talent and more kids 20 to 23 doing a great job.

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