Baseball star Alex Rodriguez shares lessons for success at Contact Committee event

Decorated athlete reflects on controversial but successful career and life after baseball


Alex Rodriguez speaks to student athletes in Evans. Photo by Ellen Kanzinger, ‘18.

Rachel Hicks

Record-holding baseball star Alex Rodriguez told Washington and Lee students that success is more about grit than talent during a Contact Committee event in Evans Dining Hall Thursday night.

The three-time MVP award winner used baseball as an analogy for the business world, saying character, resiliency and grit got him through the Major League and are valuable traits to develop throughout one’s life.

“The sign of a champion is a gritty character,” Rodriguez said. “A champion finds a way to win.”

When he was 19 years old, Rodriguez, nicknamed “A-Rod,” said he was demoted five times while playing for the Seattle Mariners. The young athlete was discouraged, but instead of quitting, he threw himself into an intense training regimen.

“I didn’t want to give them a choice with my life and career,” Rodriguez said.

He said he began training 12 hours a day, partaking in running track, strength and conditioning and hill sprints.

By 1996, when Rodriguez was 21, he was a star in the world of baseball and he said his determination served him better than his talent.

Rodriguez said his resolve served him well in his everyday life, too. In 2014, A-Rod was caught using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). He found himself suspended for an entire year – the longest suspension in MLB history.

Rodriguez said the hardest thing he ever had to do was face his daughters and tell them about his mistakes. But he said he he now considers his 2014 suspension to be both the worst and greatest thing that has ever happened to him.

“It gave me a chance to turn the lense inward,” Rodriguez said, knowing that it would take him the whole year of suspension to get his life back together.

Rodriguez said he battled with depression at the beginning of his time away from baseball. But the athlete’s hope was not all lost.

“If I ever get another shot,” he recalled saying to himself, “I’m going to be a good human being and I never ever want to explain myself to my daughters again.”

After his return to the Major League, Rodriguez said the things he took for granted before his suspension became higher priorities, especially his fans.

Speaking to an audience wider than baseball fans alone, Rodriguez said he wants to continue to serve as an example for those around him and that he would like to be remembered as a great father above all else.

Most professional athletes’ average career is five-and-a-half years long. Rodriguez said that in these five years, typically 95 percent of the athletes’ money comes between the ages of 20 and 30. And most of this money ends up in their agents’, managers’ or lawyers’ hands.

“And they haven’t even gone through their first divorce yet,” Rodriguez joked.

People generally would like to get to a point in their lives where they have financial liberty for the rest of their lives. But if the process is rushed, Rodriguez said, people often end up where they started, or worse off.

“Slow is better,” Rodriguez said, especially in regards to money and business.

Even if tremendous talent is lacking, he said as long as people have good character and resiliency, then they present great value to those around them.