|ESPN.com: Dick Vitale||[Print without images]|
I will never forget the day, 18 years ago, at The ESPYS. I was at a VIP party after the show when I felt a tap on my shoulder. A young athlete came up to me and introduced himself, "My name is Alex Rodriguez of the Seattle Mariners, and I wanted to meet you, Dickie V."
We ended up spending a lot of time talking baseball that evening. It was clear that he had a passion and love for the game. After that first meeting, we stayed in touch. I was so impressed with his unbelievable feeling of pride of putting on that uniform.
It is so sad to read what is happening in the life of A-Rod. This should be the time of his life, after 19 incredible years, when everyone is talking about the fantasy-type numbers he has put up. Think about it: 647 home runs, 1,950 RBIs, 1,898 runs scored, a .300 career batting average, two Gold Gloves, three AL MVP awards.
People should be talking about him with the greats of the game, like Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Stan Musial. Instead of ending with a likely journey to the Hall of Fame, he is en route to the Hall of Shame.
Why has he fallen from grace? Because he cheated, lied and made bad decisions throughout his career. He was greedy. Rodriguez had a hunger to put up incredible numbers ... but where did it take him? A-Rod never really needed PEDs. His skill level was unreal, a five-tool package.
There is a clear message out there for all youngsters: You can write a check and buy many things when you are a famous superstar. The one thing you cannot purchase is your reputation. That is something you have to earn.
Alex Rodriguez has the potential to earn tons of cash in the future. He has lost any shot of having the reputation of a true hero, someone youngsters can look up to. He said he wants to still be a role model. Are you serious? He could have been a great role model to youngsters at the Boys & Girls Club, as well as those families. He can forget about that now.
The ban from the commissioner's office and Major League Baseball is deserved and he has nobody to blame but himself. Let's hope he can go forward in a positive way. Rodriguez could do some good by talking to youngsters who swing the bat. He should tell them that they should not follow the pattern he set. That innocent young man I met years ago at the ESPYS is very different right now.