06/10/2002 5:40 pm ET
Bench hangs 10 on Pudge
Rodriguez receives Gold Glove from Hall of Famer
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com
ARLINGTON, Texas - It was fitting that the Rangers and Reds kicked off their first-ever Interleague series Monday with a ceremony that featured the most celebrated catchers in their histories.
Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench presented Texas catcher Ivan Rodriguez his 10th consecutive Gold Glove Award during a press conference at The Ballpark in Arlington. Bench also boasts 10 consecutive Gold Gloves, a record for a catcher. The former Reds great will formally present Rodriguez with the award during a ceremony before Monday's game.
"At least I was tied with him for a while and he'll be going past me after this year," said Bench, who joined Rodriguez and former Rangers catcher Jim Sundberg during the Dr Pepper monthly luncheon, held before the conference. "I'm proud of what he has done and meant to catching."
The pair joked and praised each other throughout the 30-minute conference.
"He's an MVP, he's put up the numbers and has a high average. He has few peers behind the plate, if any," Bench said. "I don't think there's any question he's a Hall of Famer."
Rodriguez has also started nine consecutive All-Star Games and leads American League catchers in voting this season. Hall of Famer Yogi Berra has the most consecutive All-Star starts for a catcher with 11.
"I respect Johnny Bench a lot and he was my favorite player. He will always be No. 1," Rodriguez said. "This is an honor. I have a lot of games left in me, but Johnny Bench will always be the best."
Rodriguez was activated from the 15-day disabled list for Friday's Interleague opener against Atlanta and went 7-for-13 in the series. He had been sidelined since April 15 with a herniated disc in his back. Injuries limited Rodriguez to 111 games last season and 91 in 2000.
Bench believes Rodriguez can play well into his 40s if he feels inclined to do so.
"In my day, at 35 you were over the hill but now you have so many great training facilities," Bench said. "We didn't train the same way or have personal trainers. I think the idea is that they have better ways of rehabilitating themselves and can stay stronger."
Rodriguez is due to become a free agent after the 2002 season and is reportedly seeking a multi-year deal worth $12-15 million a year. Rangers owner Tom Hicks expects the catcher to test the market and has said initial talks with Jeff Moorad, Rodriguez's agent, have not been realistic.
"I've been 11 years in this organization and of course I would like to stay," Rodriguez said. "This is my home. I raised my children here and they love the area and the fans are the best. Everybody has done so many good things for me. I would like to stay here for the rest of my career.
"The contract is going to be fair and something I'm going to be happy with. I want to play baseball and leave it up to the agent that represents me and we'll see what happens later on."
Rodriguez added that he has no plans to change positions.
"I love to catch and it's as simple as that. A lot of people ask me about second base or infield, but I don't think about that," Rodriguez said. "My goal is to finish my career at one position. Catching is the position I love."
Jesse Sanchez covers the Texas Rangers for MLB.com. He can
be contacted via email at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.