Fans show love for A-Rod's milestone, but not for the man who hit it
By JOSH SOLOMON
College Contributor Network
Nearly four months ago, Alex Rodriguez apologized to fans. He wrote a letter in loopy script with a blue pen on white paper. He was ready to come back to the New York Yankees.
A-Rod entered spring training camp 61 hits shy of his 3,000th career hit -– one of many milestones he would surely check off during the course of the season, most of which you could argue are meaningless or at best tainted.
I wrote how Yankees fans didn't want anything more than production. Put down the pen, pick up the bat, and then we'll talk.
Friday night in the Bronx, I saw a near sold out crowd – a recorded 44,588, write back to A-Rod. You could call it a love letter.
The sports media loved the moment, too. They would report how he received a standing ovation when he sent the milestone sailing a little to the left of the short porch in right.
There's a little more to this correspondence. The Yankees entered a game back of first place in the AL East, jockeying for the top slot all season long. It has been a season with its fair share of headaches. In the bottom of the first, minutes before A-Rod recorded his 3,000th career hit by driving a first pitch fastball against Justin Verlander for a home run, Brett Gardner got picked off at first base.
The crowd was into the game. They groaned when Gardner got sent back to the dugout; a leadoff single waisted against a typically tough pitcher. Soon Rodriguez came to the plate with two outs, a day removed from picking up two hits to climb to one away from the milestone.
The big scoreboard in center field turned to A-Rod as he walked to the plate. The fans stood up. A-Rod walked to the plate, and the fans started to roar. A-Rod dug in, and the fans were primed with pre-made signs and pre-charged cellphones to bring in the moment. A quick look at the stadium, take away a couple dozen muggy degrees, could lead you to believe that this was playoff baseball in the Bronx.
What happened next was odd.
Rodriguez jolted the ball over the right field fence and the place went bouncing. The fans I saw wearing jerseys of the once court jester of the Bombers were now the leaders in the line of celebratory high fives and applauds around the stadium.
In the lines of the fans' love letter, their hearts pounded with joy. I could remember the last time I saw him play before this season when he was being routinely booed by a bunch in the stadium. There were no boo birds Friday night – after all the Yankees just took a 1-0 in the first over the Tigers.
This love letter by the fans though seems to be mistaken as anything more than lust. Rodriguez fulfilled the desires of everyone's pregame expectations on the very first pitch. Those around me joked that they could leave now, knowing the history was made and the rest of the game could not possibly be as fulfilling.
Maybe it was too quick for fans to fully grasp what had happened. He came out for a curtain call as the applause still serenaded the stadium in the first. Chants of "A-Rod" or "Rodriguez" were missing though. Next time up he was greeted with thank you's in the form of standing applauds as he was announced to the plate, but a pop out to second sent him packing. The game was tied and the fans had moved on.
Maybe the fans are demanding too much. Maybe I saw a crowd who just wanted to see history, applauded the history, and then was ready to watch the game. Some just wanted entertainment, attempting to start the wave in the middle of his third at bat. No one seemed to particularly care beyond being able to post to social media that they were there for the milestone. The passion for the man in the pinstripes was barely there.
It's been four months since Rodriguez asked for fans to accept him again. It was a quiet letter that has spoke volumes because he his bat has hit loudly. That was his 13th home run of the season. The Yankees went onto win the game. The production is there and the jeers are not.
Although he's not hated in the Bronx anymore, fans stood more for the history and less for the player. Maybe if he can launch the long ball later on in the pennant race and in a potential playoff run, fans will show their love for the man, but Friday night it was just a look of lust toward the Yankees designated hitter.
Josh Solomon is a Queens kid, transplanted to DC, who now reps New York and DMV teams. He is a junior at George Washington University, where he is a staff writer for The GW Hatchet.