A-Rod: The Miami Years

He is one of the most polarizing athletes of all time. But whether you love him or hate him, everybody has an opinion about Alex Rodriguez. Born on July 27, 1975 in New York to Dominican immigrants, the man known as “A-Rod” grew up in Miami a huge Hurricanes and Dolphins fan. As a kid, Rodriguez would take the bus from his West Kendall neighborhood to the Orange Bowl to watch the Hurricanes play on Saturday and the Dolphins on Sunday. One of his favorite sports memories was watching the Dolphins defeat the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football as a 10 year boy in 1985. Rodriguez went on to play quarterback at Miami’s Westminster Christian School. He wore #13 because his idol was Dan Marino. He later wore #13 with the New York Yankees.

Rodriguez discovered sports as a youngster at the Hank Kline Boys and Girls Club at Southwest 32nd Avenue. Under the tutelage of coach Eddy Rodriguez (no relation), A-Rod developed his baseball skills at an early age. Rodriguez originally attended Christopher Columbus High School, an all-boys Catholic school in the city’s Westchester section. He first made his mark as a starting point guard for the Columbus varsity basketball team as a freshman. But he couldn’t make the varsity baseball team. Then Columbus baseball coach Herb Baker was not impressed with Rodriguez’s flashy fielding style and demoted Rodriguez to the JV team. He once told Rodriguez that he should “take up ping pong” because he used his backhand too much. Unhappy at Columbus, Rodriguez transferred to Westminster Christian, a small private school in Palmetto Bay where his childhood friend J.D. Arteaga was a star pitcher on the baseball team. During his high school years at Westminster Christian, Rodriguez became one of the most decorated prep athletes in Miami-Dade County history. On the baseball diamond, he was a slick fielding shortstop with a rocket arm, quick feet and a powerful swing. He played 100 games at Westminster Christian from 1991 to 1993, batting .419 with 90 stolen bases. As a senior, A-Rod hit .505 with 9 home runs and stole 35 bases in 35 attempts. He led the Westminster Christian Warriors to the state championship and USA Today national title as a junior. As a senior he was named National Player of the Year by Gatorade and USA Today.
During his junior year of high school, Westminster Christian baseball coach Rich Hofman encouraged Rodriguez to join the football team. Hofman was the the team’s offensive coordinator and ran a one-back offense patterned after the University of Miami then coached by Dennis Erickson. Rodriguez had never played organized football. But he proved to be a natural. Rodriguez led all Miami-Dade County quarterbacks with 21 touchdown passes as a junior in 1991. His favorite receiver was tight end Doug Mientkiewicz, who also went on to a successful Major League Baseball career. Rodriguez starting drawing interest from several big-time universities for his quarterback skills. The University of Miami offered a scholarship to play both football and baseball. However, A-Rod quit playing football his senior year to concentrate on baseball. Rodriguez signed a letter of intent to play baseball for the University of Miami. But when he was selected by the Seattle Mariners as the first overall pick of the 1993 Major League Amateur Draft, the offer was too good to refuse. He signed a 3-year contract worth $1.3 million, including a $1 million signing bonus. It was the biggest contract given to a high school player at the time. When Rodriguez made it to the Major Leagues, he didn’t forget the “ping pong” comment from Herb Baker. He later sent a ping pong table to Baker, which is still at Columbus High School.
Although Rodriguez has been involved in several controversies during his major league career, including the use of performance enhancing drugs, he’s always stayed true to his Miami roots. He has continued to be a longtime supporter of University of Miami athletics and the Boys and Girls Club. Although he never attended UM, Rodriguez donated $3.9 million to the university. UM’s on-campus baseball stadium is currently known as Alex Rodriguez Park. To read more stories about the Orange Bowl and its history, visit us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ghostsoftheorangebowl

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