With 3,115 career hits, 696 career home runs, 2,086 career runs batted in and 329 career stolen bases, the 22-year Major League Baseball veteran Alex (A-Rod) Rodriguez is one of the most widely-known baseball players in the world.
On April 27, Rodriguez came to Slippery Rock University to spread his story and message to young people. University Program Board (UPB) director of speakers, Ryan Ferguson, was in charge of the committee that brought Rodriguez to The Rock.
Ferguson said that, while UPB has brought in big-name speakers before, it was special to have someone like Alex Rodriguez come to SRU.
“I think his story is just so popular with everybody, even if you’re not primarily a baseball fan, you know the name A-Rod,” Ferguson said. “It’s just an amazing feeling to bring someone like that to connect with over 700 people and change some lives tonight, and I think that’s what we really did. I’m proud of everybody that was a part of that process.”
Director of career education and development at SRU, Dr. John Rindy, was the moderator of the event, asking Rodriguez questions and keeping the conversation moving.
Rindy said that he wanted to try to have Rodriguez share as many of his experiences as he could with the Slippery Rock students in attendance.
“I think the purpose of a moderator is to take the discussion the way that the audience would like it to go, to know the audience a little bit and to ask questions in that direction,” Rindy said. “(Rodriguez) said, ‘take the conversation in the direction you know is right,’ and that is exactly what I wanted to hear.”
Rodriguez talked about his life growing up with a single mother and how he ultimately was drafted first overall by the Seattle Mariners in the 1993 MLB draft at the age of 17. Rodriguez said that he originally was going to attend the University of Miami on a full baseball scholarship and wanted to pursue a master’s degree in business. Growing up with two siblings and a single mother that worked two jobs, Rodriguez said that he knew his only way to attend college would be through baseball.
Rodriguez continued to talk about how, even as a rookie in the MLB, he was determined to not become one of those athletes that loses all their money and has no future after they retire. He also said that as an 18-, 19- and 20-year old playing alongside players in their mid-thirties, he had to mature very quickly. In his words, he “had the body of a man, the talent of a major leaguer and the maturity of a boy.”
Much to the surprise of the audience, Rodiguez also openly talked about 2014, the year he was suspended from baseball due to using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). He said the suspension was one of the lowest points of his life and that he had to apologize to a lot of people to try and make amends for what he did. The lesson he learned from this, he said, was to surround yourself with people who want to help you, through good times and bad.
From there, it was opened up for audience members to ask questions and that is when the crowd began to see the real Alex Rodriguez. A young woman from Queens, NY said that Rodriguez was an inspiration to her and her sister and he responded, “I have to give you a hug.” He embraced the young woman, who was on the verge of tears, to applause from the audience.
An audience member asked him again about his PED use, to which Rodriguez said was a horrible 30-second decision that could have ruined his life, and that the worst part of it was having to explain himself to his two daughters.
Finally, a very young boy asked Rodriguez who he thought the best baseball player was right now, to which Rodriguez responded that one day, that young boy might be. He again came down from the stage to embrace the boy, much to the crowd’s pleasure.
Ferguson said that Rodriguez’s personal interactions with the audience was better than anything he could have expected.
“That was amazing,” Ferguson said. “He’s a very personable guy, not everybody would do that and he was so open to doing it. So I think it just made tonight even better, because he got on that very personable level with some of the crowd.”
UPB president Brandon Quinn said that he thinks Rodriguez chose to come to a small school like Slippery Rock because he enjoys talking to, and connecting with, smaller crowds.
“For him to come and talk to such a small crowd and to be able to relate, I’m sure with the big arenas you can’t relate to a one-on-one perspective. Somewhere like this, it’s small and it’s easier to relate and I’m sure he likes to do that,” Quinn said. “He knows he inspires people and when you’re told something like that you want to inspire as many people as you can.”