ARLINGTON, Texas – Former Rangers pitcher John Burkett’s first dealing with Pudge Rodriguez came flying past him at speeds over 90 miles per hour.
After Rodriguez’s official retirement announcement at Rangers Ballpark on Monday, Burkett recounted his first appearance with Texas against Toronto in 1996, which was his first chance to witness a Rodriguez throw to second base.
“Luckily whenever I throw a pitch, I fall off to the side because when that ball came flying by me I heard, ‘Going,’ and that ball came flying by me waist high,” Burkett said. “I thought it was going to hit the ground and when I turned around it was right on the bag.”
It was Burkett’s first time to really see the talent Rodriguez showcased in Arlington for 12 seasons and then a brief stint in 2009.
His initial reaction, simply, “Wow.”
Another of Rodriguez’s frequent battery-mates, Ken Hill, remembered the catcher for the guy he was in the clubhouse and the effort he put into becoming the accomplished player he is today.
“He was a great teammate,” Hill said. “We had a lot of fun together. Pudge worked hard. Pudge always kept himself in shape and worked hard at it and it showed. Twenty-one years in the game -- that’s a long time.”
Rodriguez officially ended his career in the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame on Monday, and Burkett said it wouldn’t be long until he’ll be giving another speech at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
“When you put both offense and defense together I don’t think there’s anybody that compares to Pudge,” Burkett said. “Being a catcher here in Texas for most of his career in the heat, accumulating 2,800-plus hits, he just did it all across the board.”