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Tournaments : : Story
Pudge Rodriguez plans to keep playing
Jim Ecker    
Published: Saturday, October 10, 2009

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Ivan Rodriguez won the American League MVP award in 1999, helped the Florida Marlins win the World Series in 2003 and broke Carlton Fisk's major league record for most games by a catcher this past season.
 
He's not done yet.
 
Rodriguez, who turns 38 in November, said Friday he'd like to return to the Texas Rangers in 2010 for his 20th year in the big leagues, and beyond that he'd like to play two or three more years and try to reach 3,000 hits for his career. He's currently sitting at 2,711.
 
Rodriguez is in Fort Myers this weekend to see his son, Derreck, play for the Florida Bombers Team Blue in the WWBA Underclass World Championship and help coach the team. He seemed to enoy himself immensely.
 
"He's a good player, and now I'm just here to spend time with him and see him play for a little while," Rodriguez said. "It is fun. It's nice to see him play, and play the way he does. He's a great player and hopefully he's got a future."
 
Derreck, a high school junior from Florida, used to be a catcher but switched to the outfield, partially to escape the pressure of being his father's son. "Everybody ... I don't know," he said, not finishing the thought.
 
Expects a lot? "Yeah, expects a lot from you," he remarked.
 
Rodriguez doesn't see his son play too often, due to conflicts with his own games, so Friday was a treat for both of them. "This is the first time in like a year he's seen me play," Derreck said.
 
Does it make you nervous, having him in the dugout?
 
"A little bit," he said with a smile. "But I have to keep playing the game the way I know how to play it."
 
That's the Rodriguez way.
 
"Play the game hard," said Ivan Rodriguez, a trim 5-foot-9, 190-pound all-star who's been nicknamed "Pudge" and "I-Rod" during his career. "Play the game hard and go out there and do your best and don't try to do too much. Go out and have fun."
 
That formula has worked extremely well for Rodriguez during his career. He's slugged 305 home runs, knocked in 1,264 runs and fashioned a lifetime batting average of .299. On top of that, he's considered one of the top defensive catchers in history, ranked alongside Johnny Bench.
 
Rodriguez caught his 2,227th game on June 17 this past season, snapping Fisk's old record. He could retire now and make the Hall of Fame on his first try in five years, but has other things in mind.
 
"To keep playing," he said. "I'm very honored to do the things that I've done already in baseball, and there are going to be other things to come. I'm just going to keep playing, because I keep enjoying baseball. I'm just going to keep working hard to see if I can get 3,000 hits. You know, I'm not too far from that. So I'm just trying to keep playing and keep myself in good shape and try to get 3,000."
 
Rodriguez has played for Texas (twice), Florida, Detroit, the New York Yankees and Houston during his career. He hit .251 in 93 games this past season with Houston, then returned to Texas -- where he began his career -- and hit .245 in 28 games.
 
He's currently a free agent, but would like to stay with the Rangers.
 
"I'm a free agent, but good things have been happening with the Rangers and hopefully I'll be back with the Rangers next year," he said.
 
Rodriguez signed autographs and posed for pictures after the Florida Bombers played in the WWBA tournament Friday. Derreck is accustomed to hanging around the ballpark with his father, but this time his father was hanging around with him. Derreck seemed to enjoy that. And he's proud of what his father has accomplished in baseball.
 
"I'm very glad for him. He works hard," Derreck said. "I know he's taking a little time off right now, then I guess in three, maybe four weeks he goes back in the gym and starts throwing to get ready for next season."
 
Rodriguez is definitely not ready to retire.
 
"I've got plenty of time left in me," he insisted. "I'm going to play for two or three more years. I feel healthy and I feel strong and I'm going to play.
 
"I started playing baseball when I was 6 years old. A long time ago," he said. "I'm 37, I've played 19 years in the big leagues and I still love it. It's a great sport to play. When you take care of yourself and work hard and keep yourself in good shape, you're gonna play the game for a long time."