Growing up poor led A-Rod to discover a business 'better than baseball'

Kevin O'Leary dining with 'Sharks'
Kevin O'Leary dining with 'Sharks'

Alex Rodriguez is best known for his achievements in baseball: He hit 696 home runs in 12,207 games over a 22-year career. He inked a record setting $275 million, 10-year agreement with the New York Yankees and retired in 2016. Now he's also a successful real estate magnate as founder of Monument Capital Management. He's even been a guest investor on ABC's "Shark Tank."

Things were very different when he first started playing baseball as an 8-year-old kid in Miami, Florida, but growing poor helped him get where he is today.

"I didn't have a lot of resources," A-Rod tells his friends and "Shark Tank" investors Kevin O'Leary and Daymond John over a late-night steakhouse dinner in April, which aired on CNBC's "Squawk Box."

Rodriguez was raised by a single mother, Lourdes Navarro, who worked late nights at 24-hour chicken restaurant Pollo Supremo to provide for him and his two siblings, The Miami Herald reports.

Still, "Every 18 months we would have to move because the landlord would raise the rents," A-Rod says.

The experience had an impact.

Every time Rodriguez's mom told him they were moving, "I said to myself, 'Boy, if I could ever trade places with the landlord and own it,'" Rodriguez remembers.

"We never owned anything," he adds.

So after being drafted to baseball's major leagues as a 17-year-old short stop for the Seattle Mariners in 1993, Rodriguez started thinking about real estate.

"The first shot I got, 22 years old, I bought my first duplex," he says.

Seattle Mariners infielder Alex Rodriguez in 1996.
Icon Sportswire | Getty Images

That decision was the beginning of A-Rod Corp., a holding company that now includes investments in everything from Snapchat to Wheels Up. And Rodriguez achieved his real estate dreams with Monument Capital Management, which owns about 10,000 multifamily units, and Newport Property Construction, which has managed the development of over $1.5 billion worth of properties, according to A-Rod Corp.'s website.

Along the way, he's been mentored by Warren Buffett and has taken business classes at the University of Miami, Columbia University and Stanford.

Alex Rodriguez at eMerge Americas conference in Miami on June 13, 2017.
David A. Grogan | CNBC

Rodriguez is also partnering with Project Destined to help kids learn about real estate.

While his interest in real estate was inspired by difficult times, it paid off.

"Thirteen-thousand apartments later, it has been the greatest business," Rodriguez says. "Better than baseball."

Don't miss: The money advice Alex Rodriguez would give his younger self—and any athlete today

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Alex Rodriguez: 'The key is learning from people's mistakes'
Alex Rodriguez: 'The key is learning from people's mistakes'