SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Back in uniform Sunday for his yearly visit to Spring Training and fresh off a trip to Cooperstown the week before, former Rangers star and Hall of Fame electee Ivan Rodriguez reflected on what it meant to join the elite fraternity of 317 baseball legends enshrined in
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Back in uniform Sunday for his yearly visit to Spring Training and fresh off a trip to Cooperstown the week before, former Rangers star and Hall of Fame electee Ivan Rodriguez reflected on what it meant to join the elite fraternity of 317 baseball legends enshrined in the sport's most hallowed place.
"Knowing that I came from Puerto Rico a long time ago and established myself in this beautiful game that we play every day around here called Major League Baseball -- to be able to play that many years, and five years later, having a plaque in Cooperstown -- you can't beat that," said Rodriguez, a 14-time All-Star who will be inducted on July 30.
In addition to being one of the game's all-time greatest catchers, Rodriguez was something of a giddy tourist in his trip to the Hall.
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"From the entry all the way to the end, all the memorabilia, bats, records, spikes and all these great things that you see there, it's amazing. … It took me like three hours, I loved to read and see every little thing," Rodriguez said.
Pudge also got to do something no sightseer can do -- he autographed the wall that will soon bear his likeness on a plaque, the second one depicting a player in a Rangers hat after former battery-mate Nolan Ryan.
"They asked me to sign it and I got goosebumps when I was signing it," Rodriguez said. "Imagine when I've got the plaque in my hand."
Rodriguez said he took photos of Ryan's plaque, as well as those of Roberto Clemente -- another beloved Puerto Rican ballplayer -- and Johnny Bench, who is often regarded as the greatest catcher in history.
He has written his speech -- "eight minutes, no more … right to the point," he said -- but Rodriguez said he'll be content with whatever is inscribed on his plaque.
"Just being there is more than enough," Rodriguez said. "I'm happy just to be part of that group and I just can't wait until July 30, just to be on that stage, and when I look behind me I'm going to see so many Hall of Famers. That's going to be an unbelievable moment. It's going to be a great day. "
Rodriguez will have plenty of friends and family in attendance, of course. Asked how many, he quipped, "Probably 3.5 million Puerto Ricans," roughly the island's entire population.
The recent visit helped Rodriguez realize the gravity of what it means to have a plaque in the Hall of Fame.
"It's going to be there forever," Rodriguez said. "Even myself, after this year, my commitment is to go every year and support the Hall of Famers that are coming in."
Rodriguez tossed out the first pitch at the Rangers' game against the Cubs in Surprise on Sunday and will go to Mexico soon to watch Puerto Rico play in the World Baseball Classic. The Rangers will retire his No. 7 on Aug. 12 at Globe Life Park before their game against the Astros.
Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com.