06/24/10 8:58 PM EST
Puerto Rico celebrating Rodriguez's new role
First island-born manager excited to return home to face Mets
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
The attention didn't stop there. Carlos Delgado and Ozzie Guillen also touched base. So did Charlie Rodriguez, a former politician in Puerto Rico.
Low-key by nature, Rodriguez suddenly has found himself in a high-profile position. On Wednesday, he was named Florida's interim manager, replacing Fredi Gonzalez.
Rodriguez became the first Puerto Rican-born manager in big league history. He enjoyed a successful opening night as the Marlins held on for a 7-5 win over the Orioles at Camden Yards.
"It's special," said Rodriguez, who never dreamed he would be the first from his country to achieve the distinction. "The general sense is everybody is happy for the whole situation. It's a big accomplishment. The whole country has been proud. The whole country has been pushing and pulling for this."
There is a long list of prominent current and former big leaguers from Puerto Rico. Roberto Clemente remains an icon on the island.
At age 7, Rodriguez shook Clemente's hand at a youth baseball clinic. Roberto Alomar Jr. also is one of Rodriguez's all-time favorite players.
FIRST DAY ON THE JOB
|Rene Lachemann||W, 6-3||vs. LA||4/5/93|
|Cookie Rojas||W, 7-4||at PHI||7/7/96|
|John Boles||W, 9-8||at ATL||7/11/96|
|Jim Leyland||W, 4-2||vs. CHI||4/1/97|
|Tony Perez||L, 8-5||at PIT||5/28/01|
|Jeff Torborg||L, 7-6||at MON||4/2/02|
|Jack McKeon||W, 7-2||vs. COL||5/11/03|
|Joe Girardi||L, 1-0||at HOU||4/3/06|
|Fredi Gonzalez||W, 9-2||at WAS||4/2/07|
|Edwin Rodriguez||W, 7-5||at BAL||6/23/10|
"Coming up, I'd have to say Roberto Clemente [was my favorite]," Rodriguez said. "When I was a player, I always admired Roberto Alomar. When I went to play for the San Diego Padres in 1984, he was 17 years old already playing in Double-A. You could tell then that Roberto Alomar was ready to be a superstar."
The Marlins have made it clear that Rodriguez will receive strong consideration for the permanent job.
Former Rangers and Mets manager Bobby Valentine said he will interview with the Marlins on Friday.
"They've been very, very clear since Day 1," Rodriguez said. "They are still looking for some candidates. I did an interview with them. They've been very clear with me. They expect me to be a strong candidate for the position. They are taking into consideration that I know these guys."
A former big league player with the Padres and Yankees, Rodriguez has worn many hats in his baseball career. He's been a scout, coach and manager, and in Puerto Rico, he has been a general manager in the Puerto Rican Winter League.
"I feel very prepared for the job," he said. "[At] the same time, I've managed a lot of players here on this team. I feel very comfortable with the team and the talent that we have right now."
Rodriguez managed a number of the current players while he was at Triple-A New Orleans.
"They say they will give me time to put everything together, my philosophy, my strategy, and we will sit down and then talk," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez also complimented Valentine, noting that he has watched him as an analyst on ESPN, and he admires his insights.
While the Marlins have said they want to act quickly naming a full-time manager, Rodriguez is hoping he can be with the club when it travels to Puerto Rico next week to face the Mets.
"It's going to be very special. Not only for me, but for the whole country," Rodriguez said. "Everybody has been very happy. They're expecting me to go there. Hopefully, I can go there as a manager. Worst-case scenario, I hope they invite me to go there. It's [a] special time for me and a special time for the country."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.