In 22 seasons in Major League Baseball, Alex Rodriguez won three MVP awards and a World Series ring. Now he's using that experience in his new role as a TV personality and baseball analyst. This Sunday night—along with Jessica Mendoza, Matt Vagersian, and Buster Olney—he will call the Little League Classic between the Mets and the Phillies on ESPN. In advance of that game, I talked to Rodriguez about life in and out of the broadcast booth.
At the end of the 2016 season, you retired after 22 years in the majors. What made you decide it was time to hang ‘em up?
What makes you great as a player is you think you can actually play forever. Timing is never ideal, but I was very happy coming back in 2016 and having a great season, helping the team get back to the postseason. I had several teams call about continuing to play, but for me, 696 home runs and staying a Yankee was greater than going somewhere else and getting 700. I stayed on board with Hal Steinbrenner, as an adviser, and I am still a part of the Yankees' organization.
Do you see yourself ever getting a similar front-office job with another team?
I’d rather be a Yankee for the rest of my life. The pinstripes have meant so much to me. And the late George Steinbrenner—I learned so much from him. He was such a mentor. Just watching him up close—the way he ran his organization and now the way that Hal and Hank and the family continue to run a first-class operation.
What made you decide you wanted to be an analyst and TV personality?
I never thought about that while I played. It really just kind of happened by coincidence. The folks at Fox met with me and said they think this would be a good idea—would I be willing to try? Honestly, I’d never thought about doing anything on television. I gave it a shot and we had a great time.
You also host a CNBC show called Back in the Game, helping out former professional athletes. Can you tell me a bit more about this show?
Essentially it is a hybrid of The Profit with Marcus Lemonis. It’s players that have gone from rags to riches to rags, and have made been in some tough circumstances, or have found themselves in a hard spot again. I go in, just like a coach would, and try to gather information and understand why they’re in this position. Then, I really coach them so they can get themselves going again and sustain themselves. Many of these athletes have great business qualities, it’s just organizing them a bit and having a plan.
Do you ever miss playing baseball, or are you more content being in the booth now?
I miss it every day of my life! It’s all I’ve ever done since I was a young toddler. I did it for almost 25 years professionally, and of course I miss it. But you can’t play forever. The good news is you can be involved in the game forever. Baseball is such a huge part of my life, and now I get to talk about it with ESPN on Sunday Night Baseball and Fox for the playoffs and World Series. I am sharing with millions of people all over the world what the greatest game is all about.
How do you prepare for each broadcast?
I read a lot. MLB Network is always on and I’m always watching it—my daughters are pretty tired of MLB Network, ESPN, and Fox. But baseball is no longer—whether you’re playing or covering it—a seven- or eight-month sport. It’s 365/24/7. There’s so much information and data that goes around that you just really have to keep up with the players and all of that.
How much of an advantage do you think you have calling baseball games given that you played the sport for over two decades?
The advantage comes from having that personal experience. It’s such a difficult game. A big part of my job is having to explain to the audience, while it looks really easy and simple on television, how challenging it truly is. I always say that from up top it looks like slow motion, but when you’re down there it looks like it’s in turbo-speed.
You played Little League, right?
What was the furthest your team made it?
We won a championship! I was fortunate that I always played on fairly good teams. I was never the best player on any team growing up—always the middle-of-the-road and a bit of a late bloomer. I thought that helped me because I always wanted to continue to work. The one thing that separated me early on: I took a great deal of pride in fundamentals. I think the fundamentals were the foundation of my game early on and my entire career.
How has Little League and the Little League World Series changed since you played it?
I think it’s just gotten a lot better: more competition, more commercial. In many ways, I wish parents would let go a little bit and let the young people go out there and enjoy it more. I’m an advocate of playing every sport, not just one, and figuring out where your passion lies.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Photo credit: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images