MLB legends ring in Draft in Times Square
Pudge joins luminaries in annual tradition at NASDAQ
NEW YORK -- Ivan Rodriguez, a 14-year fixture in the All-Star Game, joined several Major League Baseball legends on a drizzly Monday morning in Times Square to ring the NASDAQ Opening Bell as part of the now-annual nod to the First-Year Player Draft.
"That was nice," Rodriguez, in hist first year of retirement, said after ringing the bell with Joe Torre, Frank Robinson, Fergie Jenkins, Tommy Lasorda and Ron Cey. "This is something new, for sure. I was always a baseball player, and now I'm going to start doing this sort of thing. It's going to be great. Now I'm going to have the feeling to see how everything is going to be running. I look forward to it."
Every pick of the opening round and Compensation Round A of Major League Baseball's 2012 First-Year Player Draft will be aired by MLB Network and streamed live on MLB.com on Monday night at 7 p.m. ET, immediately following a one-hour preview show that begins at 6 p.m. ET. Rounds 2-40 will also be streamed live on MLB.com on Tuesday and Wednesday.
MLB.com's coverage, sponsored by CenturyLink, will include Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Rodriguez, 40, decided last December to call it a career, leaving with such records as most games caught and most hits by a catcher, as well as 13 Gold Gloves. A year after son Dereck, an outfielder, was drafted by the Twins, Rodriguez will be at the Rangers' table as part of MLB's tradition of inviting former players as club representatives working the phones on the Draft floor in Secaucus, N.J.
"I absolutely know I can still play. I still keep myself in great shape," he said. "But sometimes it's time to say that's it, and I made a decision back in December and I'm just doing other stuff off the field, just being involved in things like this. It's baseball. I'm still going to be in baseball. Baseball is in us players for life. As long as I can keep doing things in baseball, I'll be good.
"I'm going to be doing things like this. I have to go back to Texas and sit down with Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan to see how we are going to put everything together. For sure, I'll be around. I'll be part of the organization in some way, so let's see."
Watching as a spectator as another widely competitive regular season unfolds is "kind of tough," he said. Being around Torre, MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations, brought back plenty of memories. It was not so long ago that Rodriguez was catching for the Tigers as they stunned Torre's Yankees in that 2006 American League Division Series, or a few years earlier as Rodriguez celebrated a World Series Game 6 clincher with the Marlins at Yankee Stadium.
"It was great facing Joe Torre. I respect him so much. It was nice to see all of them. It's kind of tough, but at the same time, I'm very happy, to spend time with my family. I've got a son who plays for the Twins organization, and I get a chance to come and see him. I'll be honest with you, I miss the game of baseball. But at the same time, I have a blast being able to spend time with my wife and kids and enjoy."
A few decades ago, before his 1991 induction into the Hall of Fame, 284-game-winner Jenkins had that same feeling, braving the great unknown of life beyond the field. He said Rodriguez can be a big contributor to the Rangers' player development going forward.
"It's a good opportunity, because Pudge played the game for such a length of time that he could teach the youngsters what the game is all about," Jenkins said. "Especially as a catcher, you control the game, with the signs and the locations where you want pitchers to throw the ball. So I think it's a great opportunity for the Rangers to take advantage of his knowledge and what he learned."
Monday morning was a great opportunity to just talk baseball with some of the people who left indelible memories of regular matchups. Consider Jenkins' reaction to being part of the bell-ringing:
"Well, Frank's not in uniform anymore so I don't mind. He was a tough out from time to time. In Cincinnati, and then he went over to Cleveland as a manager, and I went to the American League with the Rangers and Boston. It was a challenge to get certain people out.
"He was on top of the plate with his elbow in the strike zone, so I used to try to knock it off. We had a few battles. I didn't want to wake him up, but there were some times. He didn't hit a home run off of me until he was a designated manager/player. Other than that, he didn't hurt me, but that one particular time he pinch-hit as a manager, I was with the Rangers at the time, and he ended up hitting a two-run homer off of me. He may not remember it but I do."
"I hated hitting against him," Robinson countered. "The real key to Fergie was great control, with his slider and fastball. Pitching in Wrigley Field and doing what he did, that was quite an accomplishment. When you faced him you just wanted to get out of there."
Robinson is senior advisor to Commissioner Bud Selig, and will help in announcing some of the selections Monday night. What does the third consecutive NASDAQ Draft Day bell-ringing mean for the national pastime?
"It's a good day for baseball, it's an exciting day for a lot of young people," Robinson said. "It's getting more exciting each year. A few of the players from recent drafts already have been in the big leagues and made a lot of excitement."
Torre introduced his crew of legends as they counted down to the bell-ringing, and he began by referencing a familiar name to New York baseball fans.
"When you think about the Draft, it's certainly an exciting time," he said. "Twenty years ago, Derek Jeter was drafted. More recently, you have the Nationals, who are fighting for first place with Stephen Strasburg in '09 and Bryce Harper in 2010.
"I just want to again thank the NASDAQ for allowing us to be there. Thirty clubs certainly looking forward to their future with excitement. We'll have five of the amateur kids at Studio 42. We're ready to go."