Ivan Rodriguez First Nationals Player Elected to Hall of Fame

WASHINGTON — Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez has been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, becoming the first former Nationals player to gain his way into Cooperstown.

Rodriguez only played his final two Major League seasons for the Nats, though in those critical 2010-11 seasons he helped bring along a young pitching staff which included future franchise cornerstones Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann.

“Pudge exemplified a true professional,” Strasburg said of Rodridguez, who caught his MLB debut. “Competing on the same field with him is something I will truly never forget. Being his teammate made me appreciate the man he is even more.”

Rodriguez’ more memorable years came with the Texas Rangers, for whom he played his first 13 seasons, the 2003 World Series champion Florida Marlins, and later, the Detroit Tigers.

Rodriguez — a 14-time All-Star, 13-time Gold Glove Award winner, 7-time Silver Slugger and 1999 American League MVP — was highly decorated entering his first year of eligibility and is only the second catcher in history to be named a first-ballot Hall of Famer. The other was Johnny Bench.

Rodriguez finished with a .296 lifetime batting average, 311 home runs, 1,332 RBI and 127 stolen bases. He fell 156 hits short of the 3,000-hit club.

“This is a really proud day for me, to see Pudge elected to the Hall of Fame,” said Mike Rizzo, Nationals General Manager and President of Baseball Operations. “Pudge was the first true free agent I signed as General Manager, and he’ll always have a special place in my heart.”

“I have one jersey framed and hung in my office. It’s his,” Rizzo continued. “That aside, if his career wasn’t capped with election to the Hall of Fame, I’d have been shocked. Between his outstanding offensive production and that throwing arm — bringing opposing teams’ running games to a grinding halt — he exemplified what a two-way catcher should be.

“Even at the end of his career, when he was here in Washington, his work ethic and dedication to the game was unlike any other. To know that Pudge will be the first player with ‘Nationals’ listed as one of his teams on his Hall of Fame plaque is really special for me and I am so happy for him today.”

Rodriguez will be inducted the weekend of July 28-31 along with Jeff Bagwell, whose entire 15-season career was spent with the Houston Astros, and longtime Expo Tim Raines, who gains entry into the Hall in his 10th and final year of consideration.

Nationals’ bench coach Chris Speier, a teammate of Raines from 1979-84, had this to say:

“Tim came up as a kid with the nickname ‘Rock’ and he played as hard as the nickname. He, Andre Dawson and Warren Cromartie were inseparable. They would laugh and laugh and that was all we heard until the game started. Then, Rock would take off — turning singles into doubles. And if he hit one in the gap? Watch him fly. He was such a dynamic player that he would have the defense feeling like ‘Uh-oh, here comes Rock.’ It was so great to watch.”

Follow @ChrisLingebach and @1067TheFan on Twitter.

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