Once the media and fans accepted that A-Rod was going to take his pretty sweet time hitting another milestone home run, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez joined a small and elite group of players by hitting his 600th career home run.
During Wednesday’s home Yankee day game, A-Rod hit his 600th career home run off of the first pitch he saw in the first inning against Toronto. History repeats itself, which means A-Rod got just as psyched out over his 600th home run as he did when he was looking to hit number 500 nearly three years to the day earlier.
An emotional A-Rod didn’t know what to say during his post-game interviews, but that didn’t stop him from discussing the big fly.
“It was pretty awesome,” Rodriguez understated after 500 and could’ve done the same after 600. “I felt a little embarrassed that every time I came up, 56,000 people stand up. But it was awesome. You kind of get a high school reception when you hit a home run and all the guys are out of the dugout.” Oh yeah, 500 home runs… just like high school. So is 600 college?
“I’m just glad… we needed a win and, uh, to do it in a winning fashion,” which is not a higher education.
He said it was 50/50 exhilaration and relief. His psychiatrist has yet to confirm those proportions.
A-Rod thanked the fans for being so patient. Hopefully, by now Yankee fans have learned that A-Rod need not be pressured or booed, for he is a fragile man with a delicate sensitivity to him.
Of course, now the media discusses his milestone with an asterisk that this entire generation of baseball could be branded with. Steroids get the spotlight, when the swing makes the difference.
ESPN, the same network that closely stalked an unfounded Brett Favre retirement rumor based on a very loose interpretation of a text message, let correspondents and analysts on their network minimize the incredible success that only six other players have ever accomplished, none as young as A-Rod. Perhaps because ESPN is a campus where interns are hazed by sexual harassment and extramarital affairs, A-Rod is the uncool kid and treated as such. Favre is the statue of all that is good in the world, prayed to seven times a day.
Another issue out of the home run is the culprit: the home run ball. Hit to center field’s Monument Park, a security guard did his job and retrieved the ball, presenting it to the man who worked hard over the years to reach such an accomplishment: A-Rod himself.
Dirty, nasty media believe that A-Rod can’t possibly deserve to keep the fruit of his own labor as much as they can’t believe that there are still people in the world unwilling to lose their job by being so greed-stricken to take off with the valuable keepsake.
Like the rest of the Yankee organization, the security guard probably considered the big reward to be that he was part of history.
“It sure has been awhile, but it definitely felt good to get a big home run and help us win,” he said, very aware that his personal problems with pressure had led to a slump that brought down the whole team.
“I just wanted to get a base hit,” he added, reflecting his desperation not to be swept by the Blue Jays after losing first place in the AL East to the Rays. “My teammates wanted me to go out there and relax.”
There were 46 at bats between home run 599 and 600, which means the psychological slump is over and the Yankee clean up batter can return, as closely as he’s capable of doing, to normalcy.