Who is the greatest Latino catcher?
Pudge, Pena among those on Legends Team ballot
Tigers catcher Ivan Rodriguez knows a thing or two about the history of baseball in his native Puerto Rico.
The best player to come from the island? That's easy. Roberto Clemente. The greatest Latino player of all time? Rodriguez, like many, believes that honor also goes to Clemente.
But who is the greatest Latino catcher of all time? That very question was recently posed to Rodriguez and the man of few words sat in silence for a couple of minutes before answering.
"Manny Sanguillen," he said.
Fans are being asked the same thing.
The Chevrolet Presents the Major League Baseball Latino Legends Team program commemorates the storied history and immense contribution that players of Latin American heritage have made to Major League Baseball. As part of the program, a ballot featuring 60 Latino players representing seven countries and territories has been created, and between Aug. 29 and Oct. 10, fans will be able to vote -- via ballots in English and Spanish -- at participating Chevy dealerships nationwide and online at MLB.com.
Here's the catch: Fans can only choose one catcher.
"Ivan for me is the best catcher in the big leagues and there is no comparison with anybody," Yankees catcher Jorge Posada said. "He has a lot of Gold Gloves and he is a winner. I'm very happy with what I have done, but I'm trying to imitate him because he's the best."
Rodriguez's game can be traced back to Puerto Rico, where he spent his childhood playing baseball on rocky fields and in the streets of Vega Baja -- sometimes with Juan Gonzalez and Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams, who grew up nearby.
Originally a pitcher, Rodriguez's father Jose and his Little League coach Julio Pabon both claim to have moved the young ballplayer from the pitcher's mound to behind the plate because he threw too hard and he was scaring children with his fastballs.
Rodriguez' mother, Eva Torres, knew her son had a gift and enjoyed watching him play sports, but as a schoolteacher, her first priority was making sure he was properly educated. If he didn't pass, he didn't play. That was the rule and it was not negotiable.
Fortunately for the Texas Rangers, Rodriguez passed. In 1988, he was signed by the club as an undrafted free agent and made his professional debut the next season at the age of 17.
He made his big league debut on June 20, 1991 and went on to set a host of offensive records for a catcher in the organization. While with the Rangers, he won 10 consecutive Gold Glove Awards and was selected to play in nine consecutive All-Star Games. He won a World Series with the Florida Marlins in 2003 and helped the Tigers improve in 2004.
And he's not finished.
"My goal is to stay healthy and keep on playing baseball as long as I can," Rodriguez said. "I don't play it for the money. I play it because I love the game."
Here is a rundown of the catchers on the Latino Legends Team ballot.
Javy Lopez, Puerto Rico (1992-current): Lopez made a name for himself as a power-hitting catcher with good defensive skills while with the Braves from 1992-2003. He was named an All-Star in 1997, 1998 and 2003. He was the NLCS Most Valuable Player in 1996 and won a Silver Slugger Award in 2003.
Tony Pena, Dominican Republic (1980-1997): Pena posted a .260 career average in an 18-year Major League career. He played in 1,988 games for Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Boston, Cleveland, Houston and the Chicago White Sox. He was a five-time All-Star and a four-time Gold Glove winner. In his first full season as manager in Kansas City in 2003, he was selected as the American League's Manager of the Year. The Sporting News and Sports Illustrated also honored him as AL Manager of the Year.
Ivan Rodriguez, Puerto Rico (1991-current): A 12-time All-Star, Rodriguez won 10 consecutive Gold Glove Awards and was selected to play in nine straight All-Star Games starting in 1992. He was named the 1999 AL Most Valuable Player after hitting .332 with 35 home runs and 113 RBIs. He finished that season with 199 hits. He has played in at least 100 games per season 12 times since 1992.
Manny Sanguillen, Panama (1967-1980): Manuel De Jesus Sanguillen was an All-Star in 1971, 1972 and 1975, and a valuable piece of the Pirates' World Series teams in 1971 and 1979. He caught more than 100 games in seven of his first eight seasons and finished his career with a .296 batting average. Known for his offensive and defensive prowess, Sanguillen hit .319 with 81 RBIs and 26 doubles in 1971. He posted a .994 fielding percentage that season.
Benito Santiago, Puerto Rico (1986-current): A five-time All-Star, Santiago established a Major League record in 1987 for a rookie by hitting safely in 34 consecutive games and later won the NL Rookie of the Year Award. Santiago is a three-time Gold Glove winner and was named the NLCS Most Valuable Player while with the Giants in 2002. He won the Silver Slugger Award four times.
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.