On Sunday, July 30, catcher Ivan ‘Pudge’ Rodriguez will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Rodriguez, who signed with the Texas Rangers at 16 and made his major league debut before turning 20, was selected for baseball’s highest honor his first year on the ballot, joining Johnny Bench as the only catchers in baseball history to be elected in their first year of eligibility.
“Ivan is a very deserving first ballot Hall of Famer,” Bench said. “He was the complete catcher, incredibly durable and intimidating behind the plate but also a very good hitter.”
When Rodriguez is inducted Sunday, he will become the ninth Latin American major leaguer to be honored in the Baseball Hall of Fame and the third in the last seven years. Rodriguez will join fellow Puerto Rican Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar (2011),Orlando Cepeda (1999) and Roberto Clemente (1973).
Rodriguez also has a second claim to fame — he has been named to the Puerto Rico Statehood Commission. The Commission is part of Puerto Rico’s newest initiative to gain statehood.
Like the Territory of Tennessee and half a dozen other territories after them, Puerto Rico has chosen a slate of representatives to go to Washington and make the case for statehood. In the past, this maneuver has sped up the slow process of getting Congress to act on the expressed will of the people.
The Commission includes three Republicans, three Democrats, and one independent — Rodriguez.
“Pudge” Rodriquez is an inspiring hero to the youth of Puerto Rico, where sports has for many years been mixed up in politics. Sports sovereignty is an important part of Puerto Rico’s sense of identity.
Rodriguez is best known as a Texas Ranger, but his connection with Texas doesn’t limit his connection with Puerto Rico. In fact, Rodriguez has played for half a dozen teams in various states, including Florida, Washington, and Michigan. and continues to be a hero to the young people of Puerto Rico. He is known for his anti-drug stance favoring hard work and dedication. That’s a message the Texas Rangers want to get out to young Texans, too.
Rodriguez has played an astonishing 20,347 innings as a catcher, more than any other American player.He has a book coming out almost simultaneously with his induction into the Hall of Fame: They Call Me Pudge: My Life Playing the Game I Love.
But his inclusion on the Puerto Rico Equality Commission, along with three former Governors of Puerto Rico and a pantheon of other political leaders, is equally exciting. “I am also excited about the new challenge playing a role in the push for statehood for Puerto Rico,” said Rodriguez. “I know firsthand the potential of Puerto Rico and the American citizens who call it home. Colonial status is holding it back, and statehood is the solution that will allow Puerto Rico to thrive and contribute fully to American life along with the other 50 states we love so dearly.”