Ryan Braun, the 2011 National League Most Valuable Player, was given a season-ending suspension after admitting his ties to Anthony Bosch, the founder of the clinic who is helping MLB identify cheating players.
Rodriguez, who is sidelined by injuries, has denied he even knows Bosch, who claims he once personally injected Rodriguez.
Hofman theorizes that Rodriguez turned to performance enhancing drugs because of the pressure he faced when he reached the big time.
“All the athletes want to get an edge,’’ said Hofman, who still coaches. “In the past, some of this stuff wasn’t illegal. But still, he will pay the price and it will probably cost him the Hall of Fame.’’
Eddy Rodriguez, who ran the baseball program at the Hank Kline Boys and Girls Club in Miami where Rodriguez played as a kid, refuses to discuss the steroid scandal. Rodriguez, (no relation to Alex) who has worked with other South Florida prodigies such as Rafael Palmeiro and Jose Canseco, remained close to Rodriguez well into his major league career.
“When he came here he was just a skinny little kid,’’ recalls Rodriguez, who has been with the club for 40 years.
“I like to know people the way they are. The Alex I know is the Boys Club, the person who cares about kids, who helps kids. People like to talk, but they don’t know him,’’ Rodriguez said.
He was one of the most hard-working and devoted players Eddy Rodriguez has ever known, often practicing so late that they’d have to kick him off the field so they could turn off the lights. Even after hitting the major leagues, Rodriguez took very little down time between seasons before returning to South Florida and working out.
Eddy Rodriguez said those who speak ill of Rodriguez are probably people who wanted handouts.
“He’s not a bank. People think he’s a bank,’’ he said.
But there’s no question that Rodriguez’s quest for bigger contracts and more luxurious perks — many of them not afforded to his lesser-paid teammates — led him down the road of no return. His circle of people he felt he could trust became smaller and smaller.
Hofman said up until a few years he remained in touch with Rodriguez and saw first-hand how difficult his young protégé’s life had become.
“When he got to New York, they portrayed him as a villain. I’ve seen the life he has to live and it’s not easy,’’ said the coach.
Though he craved love and attention, his ego seemed to stand in the way. In 2001, he was crucified in the tabloids for dissing the beloved hometown Yankee hero Derek Jeter, his teammate, in an Esquire story. And in 2009 a magazine photo showing him posing in front of a mirror kissing his reflection did little to help his image.
Hofman recognizes that Alex has not always made the best decisions.
“With Alex, people either love him or they hate him, there is no middle ground.’’
Eddy Rodriguez insists the superstar has never forgotten where he came from. He visits the club almost every year with loads of Christmas toys for the kids, signs baseballs and eats pizza like a regular Joe.
Alex Rodriguez-Roig, executive director of Miami Boys and Girls Clubs — also no relation to Alex — said it’s impossible to measure the contributions that Rodriguez has made to the South Florida community. He has donated more than $1 million to the club, and continues to donate equipment and fund renovations.
The baseball diamond at the club has been transformed from the weedy sandlot that young Alex once played upon into a carefully manicured gem. His name is emblazoned across the club’s $2 million educational center, as well as on the stadium at the University of Miami, thanks to his sizeable financial gifts to the university, which he never attended.
The Miami Herald contacted the university several times for comment, but it did not return calls.
Rodriguez has often said his mother was probably the most important influence on his life.
In a 1997 interview with The Seattle Times, Rodriguez, then 21 and just entering the pantheon of sports greats, talked about integrity, his bright future and, someday, being a role model to younger players.
“My mom says fame and money mean nothing if you don’t stay the same person you were.’’
Note: This story has been corrected from an earlier version that incorrectly identified those responsible for improvements to the baseball field at the Hank Kline Boys and Girls Club. They were made possible through a community partnership between Ransom Everglades School, its parents and the boys and girls club.