MIAMI -- Alex Rodriguez has long had a field named after him at the Southwest Miami Boys & Girls Club, where he learned the game as a youth. By early next baseball season, the celebrated third baseman will be able to savor something even more meaningful to him -- an educational facility named for him at the club.
The $1.5 million Alex Rodriguez Education Center, to be located on the club's southeastern side and expected to be nearly 10,000 square feet, figures to open sometime in April. It will include a state-of-the-art computer laboratory, an area for Internet use, classrooms for homework study and a huge teen center, where the older kids can meet.
Rodriguez got the project rolling with a $500,000 contribution, then began encouraging others to help. Ocean Bank completed the construction funds effort with a $300,000 offering, according to Alex Rodriguez, no relation, who heads the seven Boys & Girls Clubs in Miami.
"Alex cares deeply about the importance of education, and we've been talking about this facility for more than four years," the Boys & Girls Club's Rodriguez said. "Now it's close to being a reality."
It was apparent at the clinic A-Rod gave at the club recently for 85 youngsters that education awareness was foremost in the message he wanted to impart. He kept repeating its importance, whether it was to 10-12 kids at a time or to the assembled group.
And his message came over loud and clear: Education will prepare you for a productive and satisfying life, regardless of what happens to you in baseball.
"Some of you may think you have attended an SAT camp, not a baseball camp," the Yankees star said with a smile near the clinic's end.
A-Rod focused on the need to be prepared for the SAT test, which can help determine the quality of a university a student might attend.
The new building will be modular, so completing the setup process is expected to take only about seven weeks. Right now, Boys & Girls Club officials are waiting for all the details to be worked out.
Rodriguez, who recently finalized a 10-year, $275 million contract with the Yankees, has talked of finally feeling at home in New York. He said he will miss Yankee Stadium greatly when it yields to a new stadium after the 2007 season.
"Yankee Stadium, to me, is the greatest museum in the United States," he said. "It's a great advantage as a player. You feel magical when you're in that [batter's] box."
Yet Rodriguez left no doubt that he plans to keep making Miami his offseason home.
"I was born here and I'll probably die here," Rodriguez said recently, as he sat in the tranquility of a shaded area near a field at the Boys & Girls Club. "I really enjoy it. It's far away from the lights at Yankee Stadium."
Charlie Nobles is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.