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Pudge has ball looking at future spot in Hall

Former catching great tours museum in advance of July induction
MLB.com

Ivan Rodriguez visited Cooperstown, N.Y., for the fifth time on Tuesday, but for the first time, he felt like more than a spectator.

Rodriguez whispered to himself, "here's my new home," as he entered the gallery of plaques at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, where he will be enshrined alongside the game's elite in July.

Ivan Rodriguez visited Cooperstown, N.Y., for the fifth time on Tuesday, but for the first time, he felt like more than a spectator.

Rodriguez whispered to himself, "here's my new home," as he entered the gallery of plaques at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, where he will be enshrined alongside the game's elite in July.

Hall of Fame coverage

Rodriguez paused to admire the bronze images of his heroes, Johnny Bench and Roberto Clemente, and former teammate, Nolan Ryan, before being guided to a grey backer that will eventually hold his own plaque. His smile grew wide as he etched his signature on the stone and below it, "'Pudge' HOF 2017."

Video: Pudge is shown where his HOF plaque will be located

Nearly a month and a half after joining Bench as the second catcher to earn a first-ballot election into the Hall of Fame, Rodriguez and his wife, Patricia, toured the museum as part of a preliminary visit that new inductees are offered in preparation for their induction.

"It's a special day," Rodriguez said. "Just to be able to see all the uniforms, all the teams and all the Hall of Fame plaques here, and then come here and to see where my plaque is going to be in July and do the sign, it's exciting. It's a dream just to be here in Cooperstown."

Video: Pudge takes tour of Hall of Fame before enshrinement

Hall of Fame curator of history and research John Odell escorted Rodriguez through the history of the game, including a look behind-the-scenes at the memorabilia not on display to the public.

Tweet from @Pudge_Rodriguez: It's official!!! thanks to the @baseballhall for having me today! Can't wait to be back every July! #Pudge7HOF #HOF2017 #HOF17 pic.twitter.com/xgHZrvmo44

A 14-time All-Star, 13-time Gold Glove Award winner and seven-time Silver Slugger Award winner, Rodriguez made his mark in Cooperstown even before receiving the game's highest individual honor.

Rodriguez reconnected with his chest protector from 1998; the bat he used all throughout the 2003 postseason when he won the World Series with the Marlins; a ball Tigers ace Justin Verlander used in his no-hitter in 2007 when Rodriguez was catching; and his Astros jersey from when he passed Carlton Fisk for most career games caught in 2009.

Video: Pudge sees baseball at HOF from no-hitter he caught

"I think the whole museum is great. Everything is very beautiful," Rodriguez said. "The stories are right there you can read. We went down below and the things I saw there were amazing. There is just so much history here."

Rodriguez will be inducted on July 30, at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown.

"I'm enjoying every minute of it," Rodriguez said. "This is great just to be in the Hall of Fame, just to be elected on the first ballot. It's an honor just to be part of the family. I think all of the Hall of Famers now, are a family. I can't wait until July 30, when I see all of the Hall of Famers behind me. It's going to be very exciting."

Oliver Macklin is a reporter for MLB.com.