Retired Major League Baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez visited the Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade’s Hank Kline Club on Wednesday to exchange gifts, spread holiday cheer and talk with teenagers about their life goals.
A-Rod’s visit to the club was part of what has become an annual tradition for the former New York Yankee third baseman. For 17 consecutive years, Rodriguez has hosted an annual holiday party at the Miami club where he grew up.
“The Boys and Girls Club gave me a safe environment to hone my skills every day,” Rodriguez said. “This is where I formally learned how to play baseball. I felt like there is a debt that I had created over a long period of time. Spending time with the kids and talking with them is a way to pay that debt that I don’t think will ever get repaid.”
The Hank Kline Club, at 2805 SW 32nd Ave., this year renovated its teen center and added career planning and ACT/SAT prep courses.
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Rodriguez was 8 when he first entered the club and found a mentor in Eddie Rodriguez, baseball coach at Hank Kline. The future slugger stayed a member until he was drafted first overall by the Seattle Mariners in 1993.
Rodriguez made his MLB debut the following year and enjoyed a 22-year career. Through his retirement this year, Rodriguez amassed 696 home runs, more than 3,000 hits and more than 2,000 RBIs with the Mariners, Texas Rangers and the Yankees.
“It means a lot to these kids that Alex comes back and talks to them,” said Alex Rodriguez-Roig, president of Boys & Girls Club of Miami-Dade. “Some of these kids have been here 10 to 12 years. They understand that he’s the one that made all of this happen. Some of these kids walk here. They can walk anywhere from half an hour to around two hours. These kids come here because they really want to be here.”
After meeting with some of the smaller children outside of the teen center, Rodriguez headed inside to meet with teenagers who visit the club every day.
“I’m never washing this hand!” one child yelled after shaking Rodriguez’s hand.
Once inside, Rodriguez told the teenagers of how the Boys & Girls Club helped him as a child and the struggles he went through while young. Rodriguez then gathered the teens in a circle, asked them individually what they want to be when they grow up and what their interests are.
Jules Martinez, 15, lives in Little Havana with his parents and attends Coral Gables Senior High School. He comes to the club every day after school to work on his homework.
“If it wasn’t for the computers here, I wouldn’t be able to do my homework,” Martinez said at the Rodriguez holiday party. “I don’t have a computer at home, and with the amount of homework I get from my school, it’d be difficult to finish it in one day at home. But here, I’m able to start and get three-fourths of it done and finish at home.”
If you go
Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade’s Hank Kline Club offers ballet, baseball (February-June), basketball (February-May), dance, intramural flag football (March-May), intramural soccer (September-November) and tennis.
The Hank Kline Club is located at 2805 SW 32 Ave., Miami. Club hours are 2 to 7 p.m. for children up to 13; and 2 to 8 p.m. for teens 14 and up.
For more information, all 305-446-2654 after 11 a.m. or email Dperez@bgcmia.org.