Texas Rangers legend Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez was among three players inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2017, becoming just the second catcher to earn the first-ballot honor.
Career Houston Astro Jeff Bagwell was also inducted, alongside Tim Raines, who spent 10 long years on the ballot before finally getting being inducted.
Rodriguez, now the youngest member of the Hall of Fame at age 45, played 13 of his 21 major league seasons with the Texas Rangers.
"What can I say," Rodriguez said to begin his press conference. "I'm out of words."
"To recieve the Hall of Fame news an hour and a half ago, it was a great honor... what I feel the most proud of is to be in the Hall of Fame as a first-timer... to be there one of one, it's an honor."
Rodriguez also added that he would be wearing a Rangers hat on his plaque. "Of course! I respect all six teams that I played for, (but) the Rangers gave me the opportunity to sign at the age of sixteen; gave me the opportunity to come to The States, and wear a professional uniform and (...) play in the big leagues for years. I just feel very honored to be a part of the Texas Rangers organization."
Rodriguez revolutionized the way the catcher position was played defensively, and earned 10 consecutive Gold Glove Awards as the Rangers’ backstop to prove it. He earned 14 All-Star nods and won the 1999 AL MVP Award.
His career .296 batting average, 311 homers and 1,332 RBI are nothing to scoff at, either.
But it was never Pudge’s numbers that cast any doubt on his candidacy for the Hall of Fame. It was his connection to performance-enhancing drugs.
Rodriguez was accused of using steroids in noted PED user Jose Canseco’s book, Juiced. Pudge was never suspended for the alleged steroid use.
Rodriguez addressed the accusations at the conference when asked if he was concerned that they would prevent him from being elected. "That--- that's okay, you know what, I'm a Hall of Famer," Pudge replied with a broad smile. "I just want to say thanks to all the writers - every single one of them, you know - i have so much respect for all of them, but (that) doesn't matter. I'm going to be in Cooperstown in July, so that's all that matters."
He was inducted into the Hall on Wednesday with 76 percent of the vote.
Only Johnny Bench had been inducted into the Hall of Fame on his first ballot after primarily playing catcher during his big league career. That honor was not lost on Rodriguez. "I'm very happy and honored to say that I'm going to be right next to my favorite catcher growing up, my hero: Johnny Bench. I would love in July if I could sit right next to him before I step in front of the microphone and do my speech. He was my hero growing up."