The Nationals honored two of baseball’s newest Hall of Famers, former Nationals catcher Iván “Pudge” Rodríguez and longtime Expos left fielder Tim Raines, by inducting them into the Nationals Park Ring of Honor on Monday night.
Rodríguez was also honored by the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation earlier Monday when they named the renovated Mason District Little League Park in Annandale, Va., as Iván “Pudge” Rodríguez Field.
“For me, it’s just an honor to be back in Washington,’ Rodríguez said. “I played here for two years, was two great years I played here for the Nationals with a great ownership and Lerner family. I’m happy to see Mark here today - he’s there eating right now, good to see him back. Just to be able to play here in Washington, D.C., and play in a beautiful stadium.”
Rodríguez arrived to the Nationals at the end of an illustrious career that spanned 21 seasons. He won the AL MVP in 1999 with the Rangers, was an All-Star 14 times, Gold Glove winner 13 times, Silver Slugger winner seven times, 2003 National League Championship Series MVP and 2003 World Series champion. He played the 2010 and 2011 seasons with the Nats and got to work with several of the young Nats players of the future, including right-hander Stephen Strasburg. Rodríguez caught Strasburg’s 14-strikeout debut win over the Pirates on June 8, 2010.
“I have a chance to play two years here and play 81 games here and spend a couple of years here and working with the young players in the clubhouse,” Rodríguez said. “I did my best to make them a better baseball player. It was an honor for me. I’m so happy to see what I’m seeing right now.
“They (have) a great team. Seeing a guy like Strasburg, a guy that I talked to him, worked with him, all the guys that you see, I was there with them when I was here in Washington. Being able to come back and see the atmosphere, very positive, very happy. Tim and I, we just did a Q&A and those fans are very happy. I can see the Washington Nationals jersey (on) everybody. It’s always great to see that.”
Raines never played for the Nationals, but had an illustrious career with the Expos, White Sox, Yankees and short stints at the end of his run with the Orioles, A’s and Marlins. He stole 808 bases in 23 seasons, was a seven-time All-Star, All-Star Game MVP, won the 1986 batting title, 1996 World Series and a Silver Slugger. He played for the Expos from 1979-1990 and again in 2001.
Raines appreciates the respect the Nationals have for the Expos organization and its rich history. The Expos relocated to D.C. in 2004 and were renamed the Nationals. The Nats have previously honored Hall of Famers Andre Dawson and Gary Carter in their Ring of Honor.
“I think because it is an extension of the Expos franchise,” Raines said. “Being able to go up on the Ring of Honor with two of my ex-teammates, Andre Dawson and Gary Carter, makes it even that much more special. Even though I never played here, never played one game here, actually this is the first time I have even been to Washington, D.C. To come here under these circumstances and this situation makes it more worthwhile.”
Raines said that Monday’s honor by the Nats was very special to him personally.
“I’ve never had that opportunity to have my name on a Ring of Honor,” Raines said. “Obviously, because there’s no longer a team in Montreal. The closest thing I have to having something up on the rafters is in Montreal at the hockey arena. Obviously, I did not play any hockey. This makes it much more real. I am happy and elated about the whole situation to be a part of all of the Montreal Expos organization that is being honored here on the ring of honor.”