06/28/10 11:06 PM EST
Rodriguez gets historic win in return home
First big league Puerto Rican manager gets hero's welcome
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
When it arrived, his emotions ranged from honored to humbled.
"I was thinking about what my reaction would be for the last five days," Rodriguez said. "I really was trying to block that and trying to concentrate on what I had to do on the field.
"But once I went out and the crowd gave me the big applause, they were feeling the sentiment, the emotion that I was feeling. It was very nice."
Rodriguez has made history in the past week. He is the first Puerto Rican-born manager in Major League history. The Marlins named Rodriguez interim manager on Wednesday when he replaced Fredi Gonzalez.
On Monday night at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, Rodriguez also became the first Puerto Rican native to win a big league game on the island. The Marlins rolled to a 10-3 win over the Mets in front of an energized 18,073.
One of the biggest hands of the night came during introductions, after Rodriguez's name was called and he trotted to the first-base line.
"That's huge," Rodriguez said. "I had a lot of feelings, a lot of sentiments. I could feel the people here in the stadium sharing those feelings with me. It was huge."
The win was crucial for the Marlins, who snapped a four-game losing streak. The night also was historical to those in Puerto Rico.
"It's big -- not only for him, but also for Puerto Rico," said former Mets second baseman Jose Valentin, who now coaches in his native Puerto Rico. "To have a guy out of Puerto Rico to be managing in the big leagues, it's something that is amazing. We can say that we're right there with the Dominicans and the Venezuelans."
When the Marlins arrived in San Juan on Sunday night, Rodriguez was treated to a hero's welcome.
About 150 people were at the airport greeting Rodriguez, who played briefly in the big leagues with the Yankees and Padres. The crowd was chanting his name and held up signs.
"It was very emotional as far as walking off the plane and getting through the gate," Rodriguez said.
Three janitors approached Rodriguez.
"They were very, very sincere. One of them had a ball and a Sharpie," Rodriguez said. "He said, 'Listen, I have been carrying this ball around all day, because I knew you were coming.'"
More commotion followed when the Marlins' team bus pulled up at the hotel. Before exiting the bus, team owner Jeffrey Loria told Rodriguez, "This is your moment." The team cleared the way for Rodriguez to get off the bus first.
"Everybody went crazy," the interim manager said. "It was a great moment for me. I was surprised to see my mother. She is 75 years old. She doesn't feel like driving much.
"That means a lot. Not only is it a big moment for me, but it's a big moment for my family and my country. It's a great, great feeling."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.