24-year-old Washington Nationals' catcher Wilson Ramos learned from two of the best, working first with Joe Mauer in Minnesota and then with Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez in Washington. It's an education the catcher was thankful for as he explained in an interview last year. "I learned a lot with Joe [Mauer]," Ramos said of his time in the Twins' organization before the July 2010 trade that brought him to the Nationals, "Now working with Pudge [I've learned] about my defense, calling the game, so I'm very, very excited to work with him. When I was young, my favorite player was Pudge, so working right now with him, I'm very excited about that." In the final stop of a Hall-of-Fame-worthy career, Rodriguez spent two years in the nation's capital teaching Ramos and fellow Nats' backstop Jesus Flores directly and by example, and working with young pitchers like Stephen Strasburg as Rodriguez attempted to stay in the majors long enough to reach the 3,000-hit plateau.
With the official announcement of his retirement yesterday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, TX, the 40-year-old catcher's 21-year MLB career came to an end with the All-Star, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, MVP and World Series-winning catcher 156 hits short of 3,000 with 2,844 in 9,952 at bats. Rodriguez ends his career, which started back on June 20, 1991, with a .296/.334/.464 line, 572 doubles and 311 HR's over the course of 2,543 games and 10,270 career appearances at the plate. Behind it, the legendary catcher ended his career with a .991 fld% and a 46% CS%.
In a letter that was released to the press this afternoon, the GM who signed Rodriguez to his final major league deal, the Nationals' Mike Rizzo, thanked Pudge on behalf of the Nationals organization for all he did to aid in the development of Ramos, Flores, Strasburg and all the other Nats he influenced during the two seasons and 155 games he played in Washington after signing a 2-year/$6M dollar deal on December 7, 2009:
As I watched the announcement of your retirement yesterday, I felt a deep sense of honor at having shared in a portion of your illustrious career. Every Nationals player fortunate enough to have been your teammate will carry with him a perpetual pride and gratitude.
Your signed jersey, framed and hanging on my office wall, is a sentimental reflection of my personal esteem, as you were my first real free agent signing as a GM. It was a signing which proved to be not only productive, but one with an important lasting impact. The world knows you did a tremendous job behind the plate. But it is the effort you devoted in mentoring our young players, especially our catchers, which impacts our team today and will do so for years to come. Neither Stephen Strasburg nor I will ever forget how your sense of calm helped steady him during his legendary debut.
You are and will remain a special part of this team, and a shining star in my personal career. The Washington Nationals wish you a fulfilling and rewarding Next Chapter.
I look forward to seeing you soon.
With gratitude and respect,
Executive Vice President & General Manager