DALLAS Former Rangers catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez left spring training early this week to be a guest of the SMU Athletic Forum. He said this year s team must look forward, and forget about the World Series trips of the past.

"That's already behind us," Rodriguez said. "We cannot focus on that. The only thing we have control of is what happens from now on. I think we've been doing the things that we need to do to prepare. I think we're capable of having a good season, too."

It was one month ago this week that Pudge was hired by the team to be a special assistant to general manager Jon Daniels.

"It's different, to be honest with you," Rodriguez said. "Being in the field is good, but now that I'm doing this other job, it also keeps me in the game."

Pudge spent 21 seasons in Major League Baseball, leaving after the 2011 season. He talked about his second big league start when he had to catch pitching legend Nolan Ryan.

"Nolan said, 'I don't want to say anything,'" Pudge recalled. "'We don't want to talk about anything. Catch me and follow me, and we're going to be fine.' That's what he said. That's it."

Rodriguez also had a chance to meet the baseball team from North Dallas High School, and amazingly enough that team has two players named "Ivan Rodriguez," and one even has the nickname "Pudge."

"I was very nervous meeting the guy I was named after," said North Dallas outfielder Ivan Rodriguez.

"He means to me, the greatest catcher of all time," added North Dallas catcher Ivan Rodriguez. "Plus I get inspired by him sometimes."

The original Pudge told the team to play hard all the time. The 14-time All-Star will be eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame in four years.


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