T.R.’s Memoirs: Ivan Rodriguez batted down those who doubted him in illustrious MLB career (Part I)
(AP photo/Eric Gay)
Editor’s note:T.R. Sullivan retired after covering the Rangers for 32 years for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and MLB.com. He is sharing his memories and history of the Rangers for this website. This week: Ivan Rodriguez.
Puerto Rico was rich in baseball talent, and nobody knew that better Rangers scouting director Sandy Johnson. He signed Benito Santiago and Roberto and Sandy Alomar while with the Padres and was in the process of turning the Rangers into a Latin American powerhouse.
Juan Gonzalez was among the first he signed after general manager Tom Grieve lured him away from the Padres to head both Rangers scouting and player development. When it came to the Rangers’ farm system, Johnson was omnipotent.
Now, in the summer of 1988, he was at a tryout camp in San Juan, along with top scouts Doug Gassaway, Omar Minaya and Manny Batista plus Luis Rosa, another key member of Johnson’s cadre of Latin American scouts.
Rosa had two players he was eager to sign at the tryouts: infielder Luis Benitez and outfielder Pablo Delgado.
Gassaway’s attention though was captured by a short stocky catcher who clocked 93 mph throwing from home to second. The kid was only 16 years old and was 5-foot-nothing, but Johnson saw a live, loose arm and good hands. Other teams wanted him as an infielder, but Johnson saw a great catching prospect.
Johnson told Rosa to sign Ivan Rodriguez.
Rosa balked. He was eager to sign Benitez and Delgado.
“Look,” Johnson said. “You aren’t going to sign anybody until you sign that kid.”