Alex Rodriguez is a homegrown product of South Florida, from Little League in South Miami to his high school days playing for Westminster Christian School in Miami-Dade.
His whole career has been watched closely by the baseball community here, and the scandal involving the New York Yankees superstar is particularly hard for those who knew him coming through the ranks. On Monday, Rodriguez was suspended through 2014 as one of 13 players Major League Baseball disciplined in a drug case.
Rich Hofman, his former high school coach at Westminster Christian, said he’s disappointed but won’t turn his back on Rodriguez.
“My view of him would be just like if my own child did something, made a mistake, did something wrong,” he said shortly before Rodriguez’s suspension was announced. “I would be disappointed, I’d be sad, but at the same token he’s still my child and I still love him.”
Rodriguez and 17 other players have been disciplined for their relationship to Biogenesis of America, a closed anti-aging clinic in Coral Gables that is accused of distributing banned performing-enhancing drugs.
MLB said Rodriguez was suspended under its drug agreement for “his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone over the course of multiple years." He also was suspended under the labor contract “for attempting to cover up his violations of the program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the office of the commissioner's investigation."
Rodriguez said in a statement that he was disappointed with the penalty and would fight it. He wouldn’t say at a press conference why he had decided to appeal the suspension. He will be able to keep playing for now.
Rodriguez did tell reporters, "I'm fighting for my life. I have to defend myself. If I don't defend myself, no one else will.”
A high-ranking source at the University of Miami said Monday that the school currently has no plans to take Rodriguez’s name off their team’s home baseball park, which Rodriguez donated millions to help renovate. Officials will let the appeals process play out before they make any decision, the source said.
Rodriguez admitted in 2009 that he used PEDs with the Texas Rangers from 2001-2003. He has repeatedly denied using them since.
Hofman has coached 45 professional ballplayers – none as special, he says, as A-Rod. He said the PED issue won’t change his feelings.
He also said that part of the shame of all this is that in his opinion Rodriguez was such a gifted athlete and such a great baseball player he didn’t need PEDs to succeed at the major league level.
“I didn’t think he needed to. But only Alex really knows that,” Hofman said of Rodriguez’s 2009 admission. “And it just shows you that no matter how good you are, it’s such a competitive business that even the best still feel like they need a little help, apparently.”
Hofman, who is now the coach at the new SLAM charter school in Miami, said he's always preached to his players not to use any type of PEDs, but what happens at home is beyond his control.
"Parents are even subjecting their kids to these things knowingly because they want them to get an edge and that's even more disturbing,” he said.
More on Alex Rodriguez:
- Baseball's New Storm
- MLB Commissioner Bud Selig's Full Statement on Suspensions
- VIDEO: Some Yankee Fans Still Support Alex Rodriguez