Bush praises former Ranger's feat

WASHINGTON -- Ivan Rodriguez rejoined the Marlins for a day, going with the team to the White House on Friday to celebrate Florida's World Series title.

The 10-time All-Star catcher, who became a free agent after the six-game win over the New York Yankees, rejected a $24 million, three-year offer from the Marlins. Detroit has offered a $40 million, four-year deal and his agent, Scott Boras, said he's still
considering proposals from several teams.

President Bush, the former Rangers owner who was Pudge's boss in Texas, talked about Rodriguez during the photo opportunity in the
East Room.

"I remember when my friend, Pudge Rodriguez, stood up to the world and said, '2003 is going to be the year of the Marlin,'" Bush said. "And a lot of people said, `I'm not so sure he knows what he's talking about." Turns out he did know what he's talking about. And I want to congratulate Pudge."

Bush recalled that Rodriguez got married on the same day he got his first major league hit.

"And here he sits as a member of the great world champs," Bush said. "Pudge, congratulations for being a good friend and a great player. You're so good about predicting victories, do you have any suggestions for, like, '04?"

Rodriguez did not speak with reporters.

Bush joked that Marlins manager Jack McKeon was a member "of the old geezers club" and called him "the Donald Rumsfeld of baseball -- kind of crusty, but knows what he's doing." Bush remembered meeting Marlins president David Samson in a receiving line.

"He said, 'We're going to win it all this year,'" Bush
recalled. "And I kind of dismissed him like another crank and moved him on."

Bush renewed his call for steroid-free sports on Friday.

"I hope the Florida Marlins -- and players around America -- join
me in getting rid of steroids out of sports right now," Bush said.

As in his State of the Union speech earlier this week, Bush did
not propose any specific initiative.

As for the World Series champs, Bush said, "I had the good
fortune to be a part of baseball, and I have never been so
impressed at a club that came together and played together as the

Bush recalled watching the World Series on tape in Australia. He said the Marlins "won when a lot of people said they weren't supposed to win -- which is the way we kind of like it here in Washington."