Correction: This blog post incorrectly said that Washington catcher Ivan Rodriguez has hit more home runs as a catcher than anyone else. Mike Piazza hit 396 home runs as a catcher; Rodriguez has hit 311 home runs.
On June 20, 1991, three months before Nirvana released “Nevermind,” Ivan Rodriguez pulled on a major league uniform for the first time and squatted behind home plate at the second Comiskey Park. The White Sox’ catcher was Carlton Fisk, the original Pudge.
Twenty years and one day later, Rodriguez accurately remembers all the details: The Rangers won. Kevin Brown pitched. He caught the whole game. He went 1 for 4 with a two-RBI single in the ninth inning. He threw two runners trying steal second base. One them was Joey Cora, the brother of current teammate Alex.
“When I came in back in ’91, my goal was just to play hard every day,” Rodriguez said today, sitting in the Nationals dugout. “I never think that I’m going to play 10, 15, 20 years. I was taking it one game at a time. The only thing I was thinking was the 100 percent effort I wanted to put in. That’s what I’ve been doing for 20 years. I came to the park to play hard and give 100 percent every single. When you play like that, you’re going to play for a long time.”
In the two decades since his debut, Rodriguez has become one of the best catchers of all-time. He won an MVP and a World Series. He’s hit more home runs as a catcher than anyone else. Even in a diminished role, he is still going.
“Well, I’ll tell you what,” Rodriguez said. “Sometimes, I sit with myself and start thinking about the career that I have, and it’s pretty amazing. It’s pretty good. I’ve never talked about myself, but I’m glad, the career that I had. I’m very happy with the career that I have. It’s not over yet. I still have plenty left.”
Rodriguez, who sits 161 hits away from becoming the first catcher with 3,000, has no specific number of seasons in mind for how much longer he wants to play. “As long as I love what I do, I have the passion to play the game, I’m just going to keep playing,” Rodriguez said.
He still works out with the same regimen he’s used over the years. He is, of course, not the same player he once was. But he can still remember that first day, and he still wants to keep playing.
“Time,” he said, “goes by very quick.”