When, Ivan Rodriguez left Texas seven years ago, George W. Bush was only getting used to life in the White House, the Rangers were pinning their hopes on Alex Rodriguez, and Tila Tequila was nowhere near the public eye.
It was a simpler time.
Since then, Pudge has played in two World Series, won one, and become a fan-favorite, to some degree at least, in each of the four stops he’s made. (Maybe not New York, but that was a misguided acquisition by the Bombers anyway, and Pudge never really fit in.)
The Rangers were mired in (at best) mediocrity since Rodriguez’s departure. His absence was decried by many. His first World Series, as a member of the 2003 Florida Marlins, gave North Texans a reason to cheer in October.
Pudge will always be a Texas Ranger.
The 37 year-old was respected and loved in Texas in a manner that may never be seen again, in the wake of a steroid scandal, the ultimate ramifications of which are still relatively unknown.
Pudge is still welcomed in Arlington with all the fervor and emotion that goes along with the return of a prodigal son. And make no mistake: Rodriguez is the Texas Rangers’ very own prodigal son.
So when Rodriguez ties Carlton Fisk’s record for most games caught in the history of Major League Baseball this week and subsequently breaks it, he will do so to the backdrop of an adoring crowd.
Of course, Tuesday’s game will go down as an away game for the Astros, and it will be for 24 members of their roster.
Pudge Rodriguez, obviously, is the exception.
Rodriguez will be home when the scoreboard turns from the fifth to the sixth, as the game becomes official, cementing his place in history which, probably, will go as another footnote on his Hall of Fame resume.
As Texas fights to remain ahead of the Angels in the standings, they need these games; after all, these games come against an inferior opponent. Losing these games will augur poorly for Texas’ chances.
But that won’t stop Texas fans from cheering Rodriguez, regardless of the color of his jersey.
At the end of the day, after all, they are cheering one of their own.
Copyright FREEL - NBC Local Media