It’s his gaudy $252 million 10-year contract — the richest in all pro sportsdom — that attracts most of the intrigue. But Texas Rangers slugger Alex Rodriguez is more than just a really rich, really good ballplayer. He’s the CEO of Himself, a walking acknowledgement of what it means to be a sports star today. He’s a thoughtful man who understands media demands and embraces marketing responsibilities. He monitors every aspect of the business that is A-Rod. Rodriguez, 28, became baseball’s biggest deal not just by dint of preternatural talent, but also by interpreting his career as a business opportunity, plotting his rise to the top since his boyhood in Miami. He spoke with Fast Company about money, success, and being a Renaissance guy.
Fast Company: You’ve said that your all-time idol isn’t Cal Ripken or Babe Ruth, but Leonardo da Vinci. Was he the ultimate multitool player?
A-Rod: Exactly. He could do everything. He was a scientist, an architect, a painter, everything. I love reading about him. To me, that’s an inspiration I can bring to my game. Everyone focuses on the home runs and RBIs, but winning a Gold Glove for my defense last year was one of my proudest moments.
FC: Your training regimen can be more mental than physical, right?
A-Rod: There’s a lot of stuff you have to do to keep your body in shape, but I’m very much a student of the game. I sit at home and analyze games. I watch pitchers. I chart pitchers’ tendencies. I have an intuition about the game that I think is at times my most special gift. I can see who I’m competing against before I get out there.
I just want to come in every year better, more prepared, more intense, hungrier. Just try to keep that edge. I’ve always believed that hard work is not going to guarantee you success. But without it, you don’t have a shot.
FC: How has signing the $252 million contract changed your life?
A-Rod: I don’t think money really changes you. It changes some of the people around you, but you have to remember that it doesn’t make you who you are. It’s just out there, and people make a big deal about it. You have to go about your business just as you did before: working hard, preparing, and performing. The money is just what you have after you’re done doing your job.
FC: Your father left your family when you were 10 in Miami, and you grew up without money. Now you are the highest-paid team athlete ever. Are you living the American dream?
A-Rod: To me, the American dream is all about having a family, raising kids, spending time with them at the end of the day, and sending them to college. I just got married, so I hope my best days are in front of me. But I’ve had some pretty good ones so far.