Fans embrace A-Rod, and vice versa
Slugger glad to get down to business of playing baseball
TAMPA, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez stepped out of the batting cage on Thursday at George M. Steinbrenner Field, glancing up into the field-level seats behind the Yankees' dugout.
The feeling may not follow him around the Grapefruit League, and it almost certainly will not be present when Rodriguez ventures into Boston's Fenway Park later this year. But on this gray afternoon, everything A-Rod saw -- and heard -- was acceptance.
Two days after Rodriguez publicly admitted that a cousin, identified as Yuri Sucart, repeatedly injected him with performance-enhancing drugs, Yankees fans again voiced their support for A-Rod by welcoming him to camp with open arms.
"No matter what happens or what has occurred in my life, the baseball field is where I feel most comfortable," Rodriguez said. "That's what I feel that I was born to do. It's what I do best. There's definitely a comfort level for me between the lines."
As Rodriguez walked off the field, young fans clamored for his autograph. He unstrapped the sweat-soaked white batting gloves he used in a session against right-handers Brian Bruney and Joba Chamberlain, flipping them onto the dugout roof, where they were snapped up by school-aged children.
"I thought today, he was more of himself, in a sense," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It was probably a little bit more relaxing day. He had an idea of what to expect. Yesterday, I'm not sure any of us had an idea of what to expect after his press conference and what it was going to be like here. I thought he was great today."
If there are any ill feelings about Rodriguez's admissions that he used performance-enhancing drugs during all three of his seasons with the Texas Rangers, they are not being voiced during the Yankees' Spring Training camp. As Rodriguez continued his workouts at the complex, he was greeted only by supportive comments for a second successive day.
|"I thought today, he was more of himself, in a sense. It was probably a little bit more relaxing day. He had an idea of what to expect. Yesterday, I'm not sure any of us had an idea of what to expect after his press conference and what it was going to be like here. I thought he was great today."|
|-- Yankees manager Joe Girardi, on Alex Rodriguez|
"It was nice," Rodriguez said. "I know they're Yankees fans, but it's a start."
Rodriguez held a nationally televised 33-minute news conference on Tuesday, where he offered details of having a substance he identified as "Boli" -- imported from the Dominican Republic and repeatedly injected into his body twice per month, six months per year, from 2001-03.
Rodriguez was asked by a reporter about the identification of Sucart, the cousin he had declined to identify, and A-Rod said he would not comment.
"I'm not going to get into that again," Rodriguez said.
But baseball topics were within bounds. A-Rod said that he took the field "ready for the worst," but he knew he would have support from his teammates, receiving numerous text messages, e-mails and phone calls.
"It seems like I've turned a corner here," Rodriguez said. "It's nice being back out there, running around with my teammates, throwing and hitting a baseball. I felt really good. I'm excited about this team."
Later, Rodriguez was summoned to meet with George M. Steinbrenner on the fourth floor of the stadium complex, as the 78-year-old owner set times to meet with his players and personnel in waves.
"I think it's something that we're going to be able to handle," Girardi said. "I believe with the character in that room, the coaching staff, front office and the organization, it's something we'll all be able to work through. I'm sure there will be better days than others."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.