The pitcher brought his right arm forward and the hitter in the lefty box brought his bat around, and he dribbled the ball foul. But he happily circled the bases anyway because everything counted as a home run Friday at this sun-drenched field.
It just so happened the pitcher also was the fourth-leading home-run hitter in major-league history, throwing underhand from maybe 10 feet away, and the batter was a boy from the NYC Autism Charter School, swinging a plastic bat at Harlem RBI’s Field of Dreams.
Alex Rodriguez made history with a wood bat against Baltimore on Thursday night at Yankee Stadium, passing Willie Mays on the homer list with No. 661. Now he was pitching in with five other Yankees at the event for the autistic kids. This was a City Clinic, an MLBPA’s Players Trust program to promote baseball to children.
If it wasn’t for the Boys and Girls Club [in Miami], I wouldn’t be where I am today. So I understand the value as a member of our union to go into our community and give back and teach and, more than anything, introduce the game.
“There’s no perspective; there’s no comparison,” A-Rod said. “This is what it’s all about. If it wasn’t for the Boys and Girls Club [in Miami], I wouldn’t be where I am today. So I understand the value as a member of our union to go into our community and give back and teach and, more than anything, introduce the game.”
Rodriguez had sued the union, among others, amid the fallout over the Biogenesis PED scandal.
But he dropped the suits, served his season-long suspension in 2014 and now has a clean restart with the Players’ Association, which is prepared to represent his interests if he files a grievance against the Yankees. The team has indicated it isn’t going to pay his $6 million marketing bonus for tying Mays, feeling that the milestone accomplishment is now unmarketable.
A-Rod, though, still looked marketable these last two days, considering the love he received in the Bronx and in Harlem, where he also signed baseballs, posed for pictures, played catch and taught the finer points of how to do it.
“I’m having a surreal moment,” Aaron Nagler, whose 10-year-old daughter, Violet, attends the charter school, exclaimed into the microphone as the PA announcer. “My daughter is playing catch with Alex Rodriguez!”
The night before, Rodriguez was the one having the surreal moment.
“My thoughts obviously go to my mother and my daughters and my family, people that supported me, that were with me for a long time,” he said. “Then I think of people who were very instrumental in my life.”
His life on this day came with adulation at a clinic before another game at Yankee Stadium.
“It makes you realize and understand the responsibilities we have as players, as Yankees, as members of our union, to give back,” A-Rod said. “We have an opportunity to share something good with them.”
Photo credit: Alex Rodriguez by Brian Heyman.