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'Little kid with big dream,' Pudge enters Hall

Rodriguez has plenty of stories to share in Cooperstown speech, including overcoming odds
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- The speech mirrored his career: spectacular, emotional and passionate, bringing out his intense love for teammates, fans, family and the game of baseball.

There were times when Ivan Rodriguez had to stop and gather his emotions, especially when talking about his parents, Jose and Eva, his children and his Puerto Rican heritage. But Rodriguez knocked it out of the park and touched all the bases in his speech as he was officially inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday afternoon.

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- The speech mirrored his career: spectacular, emotional and passionate, bringing out his intense love for teammates, fans, family and the game of baseball.

There were times when Ivan Rodriguez had to stop and gather his emotions, especially when talking about his parents, Jose and Eva, his children and his Puerto Rican heritage. But Rodriguez knocked it out of the park and touched all the bases in his speech as he was officially inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday afternoon.

:: 2017 Hall of Fame induction coverage ::

"Obviously it's emotional when you see all the fans there cheering for you and your whole family is right in front of you," Rodriguez said after it was over. "I am an emotional person. At the beginning, I was nervous, but after that everything came out OK. It was great, it was emotional, but it was a dream to be a part of this select group."

It was also a big day for the island of Puerto Rico. The field behind the Clark Sports Center was filled with hundreds of fans waving the Puerto Rico flag and cheering Rodriguez, the fourth player from the island to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Fellow Puerto Rican inductees Roberto Alomar and Orlando Cepeda were present on Sunday, with the fourth being the late Roberto Clemente.

Hall of Fame Class of 2017 earns immortality

Video: Ivan Rodriguez shares memory of Nolan Ryan

"Yeah, I saw a lot of Puerto Rican fans and the flags waving," Rodriguez said. "I greatly appreciate it. It's a great moment. To be the fourth Puerto Rican, very small island, four Hall of Famers in Cooperstown. That tells you how good we are and how we are respected in the game of baseball."

Rodriguez's speech ended just eight minutes before Adrian Beltre hit a double in Arlington for the 3,000th hit of his career. It was an extraordinary day in the history of the Rangers.

He is the sixth former Rangers player to be elected to the Hall of Fame and the first position player. The others are Nolan Ryan, Ferguson Jenkins, Rich Gossage, Gaylord Perry and Bert Blyleven. Rodriguez, who spent the first 13 of his 21 seasons in Texas, and Ryan are the only ones wearing Rangers caps on their plaques.

Video: Pudge apologizes to Griffey for his son's accident

"Now I am going to have the plaque here forever," Rodriguez said. "To see that plaque on the wall with the greatest players who played the game, it's unbelievable.

He paid tribute to boyhood hero Johnny Bench, told stories about Nolan Ryan and Ken Griffey Jr. and saluted other catchers from Puerto Rico: the Molina brothers, Benito Santiago, Javier Lopez, Sandy Alomar Jr. and Jorge Posada. He talked about his childhood dreams.

Video: Ivan Rodriguez on his nickname Pudge

"Never let anyone take your dreams from you." Rodriguez said. "Don't let anyone say your dreams cannot be accomplished. Tell them about a short kid who would hang from a rope for hours, dangling there, trying to stretch himself and hoping to become as tall as the other boys.

"That was me … and obviously, it didn't work. But I did get a cool nickname out of it: Pudge. The little kid from Puerto Rico with a big dream."

Rodriguez paid tribute to every team he played for, including the Marlins, with whom he won a World Series title in 2003, and Detroit, where he played in another in '06. He called out former managers Jack McKeon of the Marlins and Jim Leyland of the Tigers, and mentioned late Tigers owner Mike Illitch.

Video: Pudge Rodriguez honors the late Mike Illitch

He saved the last for the Rangers, mentioning former teammates, including Juan Gonzalez, former managers Bobby Valentine and Johnny Oates, hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, executives Tom Grieve, Tom Schieffer, John Blake and Taunee Taylor, former owners George W. Bush, Rusty Rose and Tom Hicks, and current owners Bob Simpson, Ray Davis and Neil Leibman.

"Their wonderful scouts, Sandy Johnson, Manny Batista, Luis Rosa and Omar Minaya, discovered me at the age of 16, and I spent 15 years of my professional life with them," Rodriguez said. "I grew up there and am proud to wear their cap forever in the Baseball Hall of Fame."

The speech alternated from English to Spanish. Rodriguez went to Spanish when talking about his parents and had to take time to control his emotions before proceeding. He was also emotional when talking about his brother Tito, his wife, Patricia, and his children, Dereck, Amanda and Ivanna.

"Together, my parents formed the ideal team," Rodriguez said. "They helped me be more than a professional. They helped me be a man. I adore them with all my heart and soul."

Video: Pudge reminisces about his 2003 World Series team

He ended the speech by thanking the fans.

"Don't feel intimidated to ask me for an autograph or a picture,' Rodriguez said. "You're not putting me out. It's my honor. Tell me your favorite Pudge story. Chances are, it's going to put a smile on my face. And you know how much this Hall of Famer loves to smile. 

"Why wouldn't I be smiling? My earliest childhood memories involve baseball. My entire life has been about baseball. Dream big and know that those dreams do sometimes come true because, well, look at me.

"The kid hanging from that rope, the kid they call 'Pudge,' I'm here on this stage, in this special place, this baseball heaven called Cooperstown, and my dream has become a reality."

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.

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