Former Texas Rangers catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez made a stop at Texoma Medical Center in Denison to visit patients and fans Monday afternoon. The visit to TMC came ahead of the All-Texomaland All Star Preps awards banquet at the Texoma Event Center where Rodriguez served as the night’s speaker.

During his time at the hospital, Rodriguez signed autographs and met with patients, including a new mother who was a long-time fan of the Hall of Fame catcher. It is normally a tradition at TMC to decorate the caps of newborns in pink or blue, however the nurses made an exception for Jeffrey Deacon Van Huss. Instead, the hospital’s staff decorated the newborn’s hat in blue and red in honor of his visitor.

“Congratulations, he is very cute,” Rodriguez said to new parents Jessica Young and Jeff Van Huss.

Young said she was in attendance during Rodriguez’s retirement game years ago, but never anticipated the baseball player would be there during one of the biggest days of her life.

“No one knew about this until about halfway through the ordeal,” Jeff Van Huss said, regarding the surprise visit that Rodriguez paid to his newly-expanded family.

This is the third time a major athlete has visited the hospital ahead of the annual awards banquet for local high school athletes, following Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee and tight end Jason Witten in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

Rodriguez played for the Rangers across two stints, from 1991 through 2002 and again in 2009, before retiring in 2011. In 2017, Rodriguez was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

During the visit to the local hospital, Rodriguez briefly commented on the Rangers’ prospects this year and encouraged his former team to remain strong through the rest of the season.

“It has been great and the thing is they’ve been staying healthy and playing well,” Rodriguez said. “This is a group of young guys and they want to play well and they’ve done a very good job.”

With regard to the Rangers’ chances at making the playoffs, Rodriguez said it is too early to predict.

“I think what the Rangers need to do is focus on one game at a time and just continuing to play,” he said. “The playoffs are months away and the only thing the Rangers can control is one game at a time.”