Pudge Rodriguez Tees Off in American Century Championship

This is the second in a series of guest blogs on the participants in the American Century Championship Golf Tournament set for July 14-16 in Lake Tahoe. Diego Isio takes a look at Pudge Rodriguez and baseball’s greatest catchers.

By Diego Isio

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Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez is a 14-time All-Star, 2003 World Series champion, 13-time Gold Glove Award recipient (the most among catchers), and won the AL Most Valuable Player award in 1999. To top it all off, the native of Puerto Rico has caught more games than any other catcher in MLB history with 2,427. These are definitely Hall of Fame credentials.

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And so on July 30, the owner of over 2,800 career hits and 1,300 RBI will be the 18th catcher enshrined in Cooperstown, having been selected by the baseball writers earlier this year.

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“The emotion is very high, obviously, it’s less than a month from the ceremony,” said Rodriguez on a conference call to discuss the American Century Golf tournament in Lake Tahoe July 14-16 in which he will be participating with fellow Hall of Famer John Smoltz, as well as the former All-Star hurlers Trevor Hoffman and Mark Mulder, and a long list of sports stars.

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The American Century Championship is a  54-hole tournament, now in its 28th year, is televised nationally by NBC and NBCSN from July 14-16, featuring a celebrity field of 90-plus sports and entertainment stars competing for $600,000 in prize money. The event, which has raised over $4 million for charity, has been held at picturesque Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course since its inception in 1990. Other prominent names expected in Lake Tahoe include Justin Timberlake, Steph Curry, Aaron Rodgers, John Elway, Travis Kelce, Steve Young, Emmitt Smith, Carson Palmer, Alex Smith, Marshall Faulk, Brian Kelly, Marvin Lewis, Roger Clemens, Jerry Rice, Charles Woodson, Larry the Cable Guy, Alfonso Ribeiro, Blair O’Neal and Paige Spiranac.  (www.americancenturychampionship.com)

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“And it’s great just to be there after five years after retiring from baseball,” added Pudge. “Being able to go into the Hall of Fame as a first-timer and to go in with two good friends of mine, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines, is great.”

Rodriguez grew up idolizing another Hall of Fame backstop, Johnny Bench. Pudge reflected that “my favorite catcher was Johnny Bench. In Puerto Rico we saw a lot of games from the “Big Red Machine” team back in the day. And I like the way he played. Johnny was one of my heroes.”

Now, he joins Bench as the only catchers to enter the Hall of Fame on their first ballot. This also leads to the argument of Pudge being among the best catchers of all-time, in the same breath as Bench, Yogi Berra, Carlton Fisk, Mike Piazza and Bill Dickey, the Yankees seven-time World Champion and 11-time All-Star backstop who was a .313 career hitter in the ‘20’s through ‘40’s.

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It is no question that Rodriguez is arguably one of the two best catchers in the last 20 years, alongside last year’s catching inductee and fellow Hall of Famer Piazza. The former Mets and Dodgers star was best known for his power at the plate and is the all-time home run leader among catchers with 427.  But Pudge has a World Series championship to his credit, and was named to more All-Star games (14 vs. 12). Pudge has also inserted himself in the conversation as one of the best catchers of all time. Among the 18 Hall of Fame catchers, Pudge leads them all in hits (2,844) and runs scored (1,354), is tied for second most All-Star appearances with Bench (14) and behind only Berra (18), and is third in career WAR (68.4), behind Bench and Gary Carter.

Defensively, Rodriguez was second to none. Look no further than his defensive hardware. Pudge collected a record-breaking 13 Gold Glove trophies, shattering his idol Bench’s mark.

In a few weeks, Pudge will be enshrined in Cooperstown forever, and says he will “try to enjoy every single event and just to have fun for the whole week.”

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