By Brady Rhoades
Did you know that Hispanics contribute $1 trillion to the economy every year?
Two years into his second career as a business executive and baseball analyst, Alex Rodriguez—always a student, always a numbers cruncher—knows all too well.
And he’s looking ahead.
“I think… we should be having really smart conversations on how to double that number,” he said.
Rodriguez was one of the greatest players in Major League Baseball history, finishing his career with 696 dingers and winning a World Series with the fabled New York Yankees, but this is A-Rod 2.0.
Owner and CEO of A-Rod Corp. Investor. The first Hispanic to swim with the big fish on Shark Tank.
Rodriguez has gone from baseball star to business supernova.
“When people think about my career, they think about the championships, the RBIs, the home runs, but what they don’t realize is that I’m fifth all-time in striking out, so that means I have a PhD in failing,” Rodriguez, 43, said. “But I also have a master’s in getting back up and that’s what America is all about: getting back up, not getting defined by your mistakes. That’s what I try to push and encourage.”
Rodriguez, the father of two daughters, started A-Rod Corp, a private holding company with multiple businesses in the United States and Latin America, when he was 26. His motivation? “Fear.” He’d already seen too many players go broke.
His first investment was in a type of infrastructure he knew all about from his modest childhood: rental properties.
“We find ’em, we vet ’em, we underwrite ’em, we close ’em, we manage ’em, and then we rehab ’em,” he said. “We buy in secondary markets where job growth is growing. Millennials don’t want to own a house. They want to own an app. The last five or six years have been very healthy in the multifamily apartment sector.”
Today, A-Rod Corp owns or manages about 20,000 properties in 12 states and has branched out to fitness centers and automotive dealerships. The man who made hundreds of millions in his playing days also invests in Google, Amazon, Facebook, Berkshire Hathaway, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, among others.
He espoused his investing strategy on his first appearance as a guest judge on Shark Tank.
“I always invest in jockeys, not horses, because business—like sports—is just about people and I always tell people that I want entrepreneurs and partners with a PhD, not from Harvard or Yale, which is nice, too, but I mean poor, hungry and driven. I want entrepreneurs that are scrappy, that are gritty, and that can think outside the box, and that are winning players.”
Rodriguez retired from Major League Baseball after the 2016 season, and after Sports Illustrated named him one of the 30 most influential Hispanics in sports. The shortstop/third baseman won three MVP awards, was named to 14 all-star teams, and knocked out 3,115 hits in a 22-year career.
He was known for putting up staggering numbers; he was also revered as a student of the game.
He had been in business for years while he played for Seattle, Texas, and New York. He even took marketing classes at the University of Miami and value investing at Columbia University.
Now, it was time to do a deep dive into business. Rodriguez did what he’d done in sports: stepped into circles of greatness.
He asked questions. He listened.
His mentors include Lennar CEO Stuart Miller, JPMorgan Asset Management CEO Mary Erdoes, billionaire Warren Buffett, and Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who once said Rodriguez’ most impressive quality was “incessant curiosity.”
Rodriguez has never forgotten—and always applied—a simple lesson about business he received from Buffett: Never personally guarantee any debt and never hold too much cash, but rather put your money in great businesses.
Buffett also taught him that you can be a great businessman and a great guy.
“Always be a gentleman,” Buffett told him.
“That was simple, but it was genius,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez first appeared on Shark Tank in 2017 and is returning as a guest judge for its tenth season.
As usual, he looked like a natural, as if he’d been swimming in those waters all his life. Truth be told, his success is a result of hard work and preparation.
He says starring on the show with the likes of Mark Cuban, Daymond John, and Lori Greiner is a thrill.
“Of course, being the first Hispanic on Shark Tank is something to be really proud of,” he said.
In one of his investment victories, Rodriguez teamed up with Cuban to invest $150,000—for a 15 percent stake—in an Ice Shaker business, which sells insulated bottles that are an upscale version of plastic cups used to mix up protein shakes.
Chris Gronkowski—brother of famous New England Patriot Rob—said Ice Shaker sold about $80,000 worth of shakers in the first few months after he, Rob, and his three other brothers appeared on Shark Tank.
Rodriguez has stayed involved in baseball, honing his skills as a broadcaster for FOX before ESPN named him their lead analyst in early 2018. During his playing days, Rodriguez was versatile enough to switch from shortstop to third base when he joined the Yankees. As a broadcaster, he seamlessly goes from color commentator during games to studio analyst.
“It’s an exciting time in baseball and now I get that front row seat to tell that the story,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez has proved to be studied, insightful, and articulate in his off-the-field role. Listen to him for ten minutes and you’re bound to learn something about the national pastime. Recently, in a studio appearance on the morning sports show Get Up!, Rodriguez named the five greatest hitters he’d ever seen.
His take went viral. Many agreed. Many disagreed. Nobody questioned his baseball acumen, or his reasoned arguments, however.
For Rodriguez, life is never business as usual. There’s parenting, and there’s giving back to the community.
Rodriguez has spearheaded the Alex Rodriguez All-Stars in Education Scholars, offering hundreds
of thousands in scholarship money to those determined to be the first in their families to earn a college degree.
He also premiered a TV show called Back in the Game earlier this year, designed to help athletes who are down on their luck, financially speaking. His co-star? Former NFL great and current TV superstar Michael Strahan.
“Michael and I, something we’re really passionate about is taking athletes who have run into some bad luck … [and] lend a helping hand and hopefully they can get back on their feet,” Rodriguez said. “If you look at the data, they suggest that a lot of our players are going bankrupt way too soon. You make 90 percent of your money between age 20 to 30. Less than 5 percent of our guys in the major leagues have a college degree. What happens from age 30 to 80?”
Alex Rodriguez seems to have packed several lifetimes into his 43 years. And he’s come a long way from his early life as a child of Dominican immigrants who was raised by a single mother and had to move every 18 months “because the landlord would raise the rent.”
He was born in New York City and spent time in the Dominican Republic and Miami, Florida. He has never forgotten his Hispanic roots.
In 2005, amid confusion about his ethnicity, Rodriguez stated: “I want to say it out loud. I am Dominican.”
He has gone the extra mile to help Dominican baseball players thrive in “The Show.”
When Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017, he and Jennifer Lopez visited the country and raised more than $30 million to help victims and rebuild infrastructure.
His mission is to improve financial literacy among Hispanics and athletes in general.
What comes next for A-Rod?
If past is prologue, as Shakespeare said, he’ll surprise us with yet more accomplishments.
If humility is wisdom, as Proverbs says, he’ll continue to grow wiser, because he’s got two secret weapons named Ella and Natasha.
“My girls are great at making fun of dad,” he laughed. “They’re never impressed with anything I do. I love that.”