National Association of REALTORS® President Charlie Oppler talking with Alex Rodriguez during the C5 Summit in New York.

©Chris BeDell

National Association of REALTORS® President Charlie Oppler talking with Alex Rodriguez during the C5 Summit in New York.

Twenty-two years playing Major League Baseball turned out to be great preparation for a career in real estate.

Baseball is “a very humbling sport,” said Alex Rodriguez, who hit 696 home runs with the MLB and was a member of the 2009 World Series Championship New York Yankees. “When they talk about my record, they forget to tell you, I’m also fifth in the all-time history of the game in strikeouts.”

Rodriguez spoke Wednesday with National Association of REALTORS® President Charlie Oppler in the closing session of NAR’s C5 Summit. He told Oppler that, like baseball, real estate is a long game. “I teach a class at Stanford, and I tell my students, ‘If you’re not patient, stay away from it.’”

He bought his first duplex at age 22. “I wrote a check for $48,000. I was so scared.” Today he’s is a major player in the multifamily market. His A-Rod Corp. owns 38,000 apartment units—investing mainly in Sun Belt states “where there’s great rent growth”—and he’s amassing a portfolio of single-family rentals.

“We play a lot of second and tertiary markets,” Rodriguez said. “Our sweet spot is $100K to $150K per door, 5.5% cap rate, 70% nonrecourse loans. We stick to our knitting, our circle of competence,” he said, something he says he learned from Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett.

“Our focus now is buy and hold,” Rodriguez said. “Sometimes people get caught up in cap rates. Obviously, you don’t want to be overleveraged, but you have to feel good about the property and the location over the long run.”

Throughout his life, Rodriguez has absorbed the lessons of athletes he admires, including baseball greats Keith Hernandez, Lou Pinella, Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, and Cal Ripkin Jr.. “Cal Ripkin taught me you can be a tall shortstop and an All-Star and a Gold Glove winner and an MVP. He gave me a model to follow,” he said. “Magic Johnson told me you can transition your skills into the boardroom, that a man of color can be successful in business.”

But while sports stardom gave Rodriguez a great segue into the business world, he wouldn’t have succeeded without vision, preparation, and follow-up, he said. “You have to put yourself out there, over and over. Most people follow up once and then give up,” he said.

In addition to owning A-Rod Corp., Rodriguez has been working as a Sunday Night Baseball commentator on ESPN and has appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” Earlier this year, he announced a venture capital firm, Vision/Capital/People, with entrepreneur and former Walmart e-commerce head Marc Lore. Among other things, they’ve invested in clean energy, online brokerage, and professional sports. In May, the duo purchased the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves and the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx.

Oppler asked Rodriguez what role he’ll likely play in management of the teams. His focus, he said, isn’t on day-to-day management but on setting the right foundation. “We’re spending time on mission and core values,” he said. “What are the three words we’re ready to live by every single day of our lives? Once you have that, it becomes easy to hire the right people.”

Rodriguez, the father of two daughters, has spent time mentoring young people through his partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America—and he had some career advice for the C5 Summit audience. “It comes down to being likable and being responsive. Do you know your business? Do you know your numbers? If you’re BS-ing me, I’m done with you,” he said. “Be someone that brings the energy every day. Nine out of 10 times, you’re going to fail. Can you keep getting back up after you strike out?”

Take it from one of the all-time strikeout kings: Personal effort is the truest path to personal rewards.