If you're joining me out at Rangers Ballpark tonight for the Rangers-Yankees series opener, you better get there early. At 5:40, the Rangers will honor their greatest player in club history with a pregame ceremony before he throws out the first pitch to probably the second-greatest Ranger, Michael Young.
Ivan Rodriguez, all 5-feet-9-inches and 205 pounds of him, was affectionately known as "Pudge" as soon as he made his big-league debut for the Rangers back in 1991 as a 19-year-old with a cannon arm and an infectious smile.
He retires as the greatest Ranger in club history: MVP in 1999, 14-time all-star, 13-time gold glover, 7-time silver slugger winner, given to the best offensive player at each position, despite playing for six different teams, most recently the Washington Nationals for two seasons after a brief return to Texas during the 2009 season.
In 1999, he won the AL MVP as a Ranger after hitting .332 with 35 home runs and 113 RBIs. He finishes his career as a career .296 hitter with 311 home runs and 1,332 RBIs and will go down as arguably the greatest defensive catcher of all time with his ability to gun down would-be base stealers and his patented wicked snap throw down to first from his knees that nailed many of dozing runners. He had a career .991 fielding percentage and threw out 661 base stealers.
There have been some great players in the Rangers' history: Nolan Ryan, Ruben Sierra, Juan Gonzalez, Michael Young, etc. But ask 100 people who their favorite Ranger ever is, and I'm guessing about 70 would name "Pudge".
So get there early, folks. It's going to be a special night in Arlington.