Iván Rodríguez retired yesterday after an amazing 21-year career. He played more games at catcher (2,427) than anyone in history, and in so doing earned 13 Gold Glove Awards for his excellence behind the plate.
I’m grateful to have been able to watch Rodríguez play during his two years as a Washington National.
Pudge arrived in Washington in the twilight of his career, but I suspect the Nationals will benefit for years to come from his influence on Wilson Ramos, Jesus Flores, and all of the players and coaches who learned from him during his time in Washington.
I loved two things in particular about Pudge: watching him gun down opposing players on the base paths, and seeing his obvious love for the game.
Rodríguez played only 44 games in 2011, partly because he missed almost 2 months with an oblique injury, partly because Wilson Ramos was establishing himself as the Nationals’ starting catcher, and partly because Jesus Flores was reasserting himself as an important piece of the puzzle. It must have been hard at times for Pudge, knowing that his career was winding down, but he displayed grace and professionalism that we all can learn from.
I can see into the dugout from my regular seat at Nationals Park, and for the last part of the 2011 season, I watched Iván Rodríguez catch every pitch of every game, even when he wasn’t playing. When not on the field, Pudge was usually on the dugout steps or somewhere close to home plate. From my view, he seemed to be experiencing and savoring every moment.
As a fan, I was doing the same thing in a way, paying special attention to Iván Rodríguez because I knew how lucky I was to be watching one of the best ever.
Photos: (1) On September 24, 2011, Iván Rodríguez catches his last game at Nationals Park; and (2) Pudge on first base after hitting a single in the same game.