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A-Rod, Mientkiewicz hit the big time10/15/2004 10:56 PM ET
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com
BOSTON -- Regardless of who wins the American League Championship Series, Janice Mientkiewicz knows one of her boys is going to the World Series this year.
It's either going to be her son, Red Sox first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, or his Florida high school teammate and friend, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez. Fittingly, the old buddies each wear No. 13, in part to honor their football hero, former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino.
"I know my mom gets a kick out of seeing (Rodriguez) every winter," Mientkiewicz said. "My mom is in love with him and in love with a lot of my high school teammates. Every time he is in the neighborhood, he comes by and my mom is tickled pink every time he comes through the door."
Just as the road to the World Series travels through Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park, the path to the big leagues for these two baseball stars started at Westminster Christian Academy in Miami, where Mientkiewicz and Rodriguez played football and baseball.
"The one good thing about this is that somebody from my high school is going to go to the World Series for the first time, and it better be me," Mientkiewicz said.
Said Rodriguez, "I never would have imagined this. For Rich Hofman, our coach, this is a dream week for him, to have two of his former players that won a national championship for him to be playing on a grander stage."
Back in 1992, Rodriguez was the star junior quarterback and shortstop for Westminster Christian. A-Rod would go on to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 1993 First-Year Player Draft. Meanwhile Mientkiewicz, a senior and one year Rodriguez's elder, was the team's most consistent receiver as the baseball team's catcher and as an all-state tight end.
After Mientkiewicz's stellar high school career, he went to Florida State, then was drafted by the Twins in 1995. After several productive years, the former All-Star Mientkiewicz was traded to Boston on July 31.
"(Mientkiewicz) was a tight end, slow but very dependable," Rodriguez said. "Good hands. He was always open, no matter how covered he was, he'd come back to the huddle and say he was open.
"No matter what play was called, I would always say 'Be heads up for the audible,'" Rodriguez added. "If I didn't like the play, I knew at the line of scrimmage that I could always change it. My coach would always get mad at me. We had fun."
Fed by Rodriguez, Mientkiewicz would go on to set a school record with 12 touchdown catches during the fall of 1992. The two then helped the baseball team win a national championship the following spring.
It didn't hurt that 11 players overall from the 1992 baseball team went on to play Division I baseball, with seven going on to professional baseball careers.
As good as they were and as close as they were, Mientkiewicz and Rodriguez were almost not teammates. The Red Sox first baseman transferred to Westminster from a nearby school and had to impress Warriors coaches with a productive week of American Legion baseball before the private school would accept him.
He did and they did.
"I had to try out, I know that," Mientkiewicz said. "That was the most nerve-wracking four games of my life when I was 18. It was more pressure than this, and more pressure than anything else because I really wanted to go there."
But it was not all work. When the friends were not on the playing field, a lot of their free time was spent goofing after school at the Mientkiewicz home, which was about three blocks from Westminster.
These days, the old teammates speak when they get a chance. Rodriguez said he does not plan on talking to his old friend until the ALCS is over because it's "most definitely all business and a different atmosphere," but will see him afterward.
Understandably, Mientkiewicz has not gone too far out of his way to see his high school buddy during the ALCS either, and described attempting to reach Rodriguez as "like trying to get in touch with the Pope."
"He has so many people tagging, pulling him at every different angle, so the last thing I want to do is be a pain in his butt," Mientkiewicz said. "I just give him his space. I never asked him for an autograph or anything. I consider him a friend and I wouldn't do that to him."
So the question remains, who does Janice root for?
"My mom still roots for me first," Mientkiewicz said.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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