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Alex Rodriguez in conversation with Sara Orlesky at the Y Sports Dinner

By BERNIE BELLAN
Why write about Alex Rodriguez for a Jewish newspaper, you might ask?

 

 

Aside from the fact he was the guest speaker at the Rady JCC Ken Kronson Sports Dinner on Tuesday, June 18, as I note in my story elsewhere in this issue about the dinner, Alex Rodriguez has a great story to tell – and has one heck of a magnetic personality.
Now 43, Rodriguez retired as a baseball player in 2016 – after having spent 22 years in Major League Baseball, most recently as a New York Yankee, but also with the Seattle Mariners (with whom he signed as an 18-year-old fresh out of high school), and the Texas Rangers (with whom he signed a $252 million, 10-year contract in 2000).
Looking back on his long – and storied career though, Rodriguez was often wistful about mistakes he admitted making. Ultimately though, it was his being caught for using Performance Enhancing Drugs in 2014, and his subsequent suspension from baseball for an entire year, that proved to have the greatest impact on what Rodriguez admitted had been a self-centred life.

Born in New York City, Rodriguez said his family moved to the Dominican Republic when he was four, then to Miami when he was eight. “My mother was a single mother,” he said. (His father left them when Rodriguez was 10.)
It was partly because of his father’s having abandoned the family that Rodriguez said he had “the inspiration to be a great father” himself which, he said, he’s tried to be for his two daughters (from a previous marriage).
“My mother really inspired me,” Rodriguez continued, working three jobs – until Rodriguez signed his first major league contract, for $1.7 million – when he was just 18.
“I bought my mother a car and a house” and said to her, “Mom, you’re never going to have to work again.”
Rodriguez told how disappointed he was to learn that he was drafted by the Seattle Mariners. “I really wanted to go to LA,” he said, and play for the Dodgers.
“But sometimes what you want is not the best for you,” he admitted. “Seattle was a great environment to grow up in.” (Rodriguez also noted that he first started his pro career in Calgary, which is where Seattle had a farm team at the time.)
After six years in Seattle, where Rodriguez established himself as one of the most dangerous hitters in the game, he opted to sign with the Texas Rangers in 2001 for the unheard of sum of $252 million. Asked by Sara Orlesky how it felt to receive such a huge sum of money at such a young age, Rodriguez admitted: “I wasn’t ready. I was 24, but I acted like I was 12…It was polarizing. At age 25 I didn’t do an exceptional job of handling that kind of money. If I could go back…” (and he sort of trailed off without completing the sentence).
Rodriguez’s stay in Texas didn’t last long. In 2004 he was traded to the New York Yankees. It was with the Yankees that Rodriguez achieved what, he said, was his greatest accomplishment: winning the World Series in 2009.
“I played 23 years in the majors,” he told the audience, “but won only one championship…It’s really hard to win.”

Like most athletes who tend to downplay their own role, Rodriguez said that winning the World Series that year “was a collective effort”. Yet, later in his remarks he noted that certain players did 80% of the work while wanting only 20% of the credit. “When 20% of the players want 80% of the credit though, that’s what you call ‘Fat Belly Syndrome’,” Rodriguez observed.
He also said that the 2009 team had great focus – concentrating on one thing and one thing alone: winning the championship. Later in life, Rodriguez said, he was able to turn that lesson into a valuable tool, when he embarked on a full-time business career: “Good business people don’t go wide and shallow,” he said. “They go narrow and deep.”
His success, however, all came crashing down upon him in 2014 when he was suspended for using Performance Enhancing Drugs. (Rodriguez didn’t go into detail as to what he was caught using. According to information available on the Internet he had been using steroids and Human Growth Hormone.)
As for what he thinks now about his having used PED’s – as they are known, Rodriguez told the audience at the sports dinner, “I have to be the greatest jackass…My greatest lesson in life came from that suspension.”

In retrospect though, Rodriguez suggests that, looking back on his meteoric rise to the pinnacle of sports success, it’s no wonder he succumbed to stupid decision-making. “Think about it,” he said. “I’m 18, I just graduated from high school, and I’m facing Roger Clemons in Fenway Park.”
With that year-long suspension from baseball, Rodriguez said, “I had a chance to press the pause button – and get some help…I put together a list of ten names to call in my darkest moment.” (They were businessmen with whom Rodriguez had become acquainted and with whom he had various business connections.)
“I was able to say to them: ‘Business is great. I’m not – but I’m getting better’.”
At the same time Rodriguez noted that, while he was suspended, “I was able to be honest with my daughters – and admit mistakes I had made – because I grew up in a house where I was basically bullshitted all the time” (referring to his father).

And, to show how he is able to put things into perspective, Rodriguez told this amusing story about how he’ll be remembered best for his baseball accomplishments: “I had 2,000 runs, 2,000 RBIs (runs batted in), and almost 700 homers…But I’m also fifth in strikeouts all time – which means, ‘if you get knocked down, get back up!’ ”
Sara Orlesky shifted the focus to asking Rodriguez what it’s like being in the public eye non-stop, especially now that he’s living with one of the world’s most famous women, Jennifer Lopez?
Rodriguez acknowledged that, while he may be well known, he’s not nearly as famous as JLo. “She has over 200 million followers on social media. She’s done over $8 billion in commercial sales.”
But, what they’ve both learned is that they have “to drive the message. Don’t let other media create the narrative.”
Later, when asked what he and JLo like to do when they’re alone, Rodriguez said, “We just like to stay in our pajamas, put on a movie, hang out with the kids.”

Still, for someone who’s now head of a huge corporation known as ARod Corp., Rodriguez said he rarely takes time off. A large part of his time is involved in helping manage the finances for other major league players.
“There are 750 Major League Baseball players,” he noted. “Less than 5% have a college degree. Players make 90% of their money between the ages 25-30.”
Rodriguez himself was a shrewd investor from early on, he said. “I started off small in real estate – buying some small apartment blocks.” Since then, he’s become a major player in real estate.
But, when it comes to seeking encouragement from others, Rodriguez said that he considers Warren Buffet to have given him some of the best advice. “I asked him why he still makes Omaha his home,” Rodriguez said.
Buffet answered: “I live in Omaha. People think that’s a disadvantage, but it’s not…You don’t have 20 people whispering in your ear what you’re doing wrong.” (That reminds me of something investment fund manager Larry Sarbit told me years ago, when he told me that he stays in Winnipeg – as opposed to moving to a city like Toronto, so that he doesn’t have to deal with all the “noise”.)
Finally, Sara Orlesky asked Rodriguez how he’d like to be remembered?
He answered: “As someone who rose to the top, fell to the bottom, came back a much better person, and hopes to be remembered as a great father and a good teammate.”

 

Aside from the fact he was the guest speaker at the Rady JCC Ken Kronson Sports Dinner on Tuesday, June 18, as I note in my story elsewhere in this issue about the dinner, Alex Rodriguez has a great story to tell – and has one heck of a magnetic personality.

Now 43, Rodriguez retired as a baseball player in 2016 – after having spent 22 years in Major League Baseball, most recently as a New York Yankee, but also with the Seattle Mariners (with whom he signed as an 18-year-old fresh out of high school), and the Texas Rangers (with whom he signed a $252 million, 10-year contract in 2000).
Looking back on his long – and storied career though, Rodriguez was often wistful about mistakes he admitted making. Ultimately though, it was his being caught for using Performance Enhancing Drugs in 2014, and his subsequent suspension from baseball for an entire year, that proved to have the greatest impact on what Rodriguez admitted had been a self-centred life.

Born in New York City, Rodriguez said his family moved to the Dominican Republic when he was four, then to Miami when he was eight. “My mother was a single mother,” he said. (His father left them when Rodriguez was 10.)
It was partly because of his father’s having abandoned the family that Rodriguez said he had “the inspiration to be a great father” himself which, he said, he’s tried to be for his two daughters (from a previous marriage).
“My mother really inspired me,” Rodriguez continued, working three jobs – until Rodriguez signed his first major league contract, for $1.7 million – when he was just 18.
“I bought my mother a car and a house” and said to her, “Mom, you’re never going to have to work again.”
Rodriguez told how disappointed he was to learn that he was drafted by the Seattle Mariners. “I really wanted to go to LA,” he said, and play for the Dodgers.
“But sometimes what you want is not the best for you,” he admitted. “Seattle was a great environment to grow up in.” (Rodriguez also noted that he first started his pro career in Calgary, which is where Seattle had a farm team at the time.)
After six years in Seattle, where Rodriguez established himself as one of the most dangerous hitters in the game, he opted to sign with the Texas Rangers in 2001 for the unheard of sum of $252 million. Asked by Sara Orlesky how it felt to receive such a huge sum of money at such a young age, Rodriguez admitted: “I wasn’t ready. I was 24, but I acted like I was 12…It was polarizing. At age 25 I didn’t do an exceptional job of handling that kind of money. If I could go back…” (and he sort of trailed off without completing the sentence).
Rodriguez’s stay in Texas didn’t last long. In 2004 he was traded to the New York Yankees. It was with the Yankees that Rodriguez achieved what, he said, was his greatest accomplishment: winning the World Series in 2009.
“I played 23 years in the majors,” he told the audience, “but won only one championship…It’s really hard to win.”

Like most athletes who tend to downplay their own role, Rodriguez said that winning the World Series that year “was a collective effort”. Yet, later in his remarks he noted that certain players did 80% of the work while wanting only 20% of the credit. “When 20% of the players want 80% of the credit though, that’s what you call ‘Fat Belly Syndrome’,” Rodriguez observed.
He also said that the 2009 team had great focus – concentrating on one thing and one thing alone: winning the championship. Later in life, Rodriguez said, he was able to turn that lesson into a valuable tool, when he embarked on a full-time business career: “Good business people don’t go wide and shallow,” he said. “They go narrow and deep.”
His success, however, all came crashing down upon him in 2014 when he was suspended for using Performance Enhancing Drugs. (Rodriguez didn’t go into detail as to what he was caught using. According to information available on the Internet he had been using steroids and Human Growth Hormone.)
As for what he thinks now about his having used PED’s – as they are known, Rodriguez told the audience at the sports dinner, “I have to be the greatest jackass…My greatest lesson in life came from that suspension.”

In retrospect though, Rodriguez suggests that, looking back on his meteoric rise to the pinnacle of sports success, it’s no wonder he succumbed to stupid decision-making. “Think about it,” he said. “I’m 18, I just graduated from high school, and I’m facing Roger Clemons in Fenway Park.”
With that year-long suspension from baseball, Rodriguez said, “I had a chance to press the pause button – and get some help…I put together a list of ten names to call in my darkest moment.” (They were businessmen with whom Rodriguez had become acquainted and with whom he had various business connections.)
“I was able to say to them: ‘Business is great. I’m not – but I’m getting better’.”
At the same time Rodriguez noted that, while he was suspended, “I was able to be honest with my daughters – and admit mistakes I had made – because I grew up in a house where I was basically bullshitted all the time” (referring to his father).

And, to show how he is able to put things into perspective, Rodriguez told this amusing story about how he’ll be remembered best for his baseball accomplishments: “I had 2,000 runs, 2,000 RBIs (runs batted in), and almost 700 homers…But I’m also fifth in strikeouts all time – which means, ‘if you get knocked down, get back up!’ ”
Sara Orlesky shifted the focus to asking Rodriguez what it’s like being in the public eye non-stop, especially now that he’s living with one of the world’s most famous women, Jennifer Lopez?
Rodriguez acknowledged that, while he may be well known, he’s not nearly as famous as JLo. “She has over 200 million followers on social media. She’s done over $8 billion in commercial sales.”
But, what they’ve both learned is that they have “to drive the message. Don’t let other media create the narrative.”
Later, when asked what he and JLo like to do when they’re alone, Rodriguez said, “We just like to stay in our pajamas, put on a movie, hang out with the kids.”

Still, for someone who’s now head of a huge corporation known as ARod Corp., Rodriguez said he rarely takes time off. A large part of his time is involved in helping manage the finances for other major league players.
“There are 750 Major League Baseball players,” he noted. “Less than 5% have a college degree. Players make 90% of their money between the ages 25-30.”
Rodriguez himself was a shrewd investor from early on, he said. “I started off small in real estate – buying some small apartment blocks.” Since then, he’s become a major player in real estate.
But, when it comes to seeking encouragement from others, Rodriguez said that he considers Warren Buffet to have given him some of the best advice. “I asked him why he still makes Omaha his home,” Rodriguez said.
Buffet answered: “I live in Omaha. People think that’s a disadvantage, but it’s not…You don’t have 20 people whispering in your ear what you’re doing wrong.” (That reminds me of something investment fund manager Larry Sarbit told me years ago, when he told me that he stays in Winnipeg – as opposed to moving to a city like Toronto, so that he doesn’t have to deal with all the “noise”.)
Finally, Sara Orlesky asked Rodriguez how he’d like to be remembered?
He answered: “As someone who rose to the top, fell to the bottom, came back a much better person, and hopes to be remembered as a great father and a good teammate.”

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