Rodriguez has yet to get ball back

Alex Rodriguez has yet to receive the home run ball from No. 500
08/05/2007 2:56 PM ET
By Kit Stier / Special to

A-Rod was a target in Toronto. (AP)
NEW YORK — Alex Rodriguez probably put more pressure on himself trying to hit the historic 500th home run of his career than he has in his attempt to get the ball back from the Rutgers University graduate student who caught the landmark drive in the left field bleachers at Yankee Stadium on Saturday.

In fact Rodriguez and a spokesman for the Yankees said they had yet to contact Walter Kowalczyk, the 26-year-old Yankees fan who made the catch and who is pursuing a masters degree in public policy at the New Jersey school.

``No, but we'll see,'' the relaxed Yankees third baseman said before his team wrapped up a homestand with a game against the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. ``We have some time. It's his ball. I would love to have the ball. We'll see what happens.

Like Rodriguez had to wait from July 25, the day he hit home run No. 499 in Kansas City, until Saturday to sky No. 500 and become the youngest player to reach that number at 32 years and 8 days of age, he's willing to wait on Kowalczyk.

``Just let it sit for a few days,'' Rodriguez said. ``It's his ball. Let him enjoy it and then go from there.''

It was clear that Rodriguez had at least some weight lifted from his shoulders when he finally reached the milestone.

``The home run will let him play baseball now,'' Joe Torre said. ``It has been an emotional roller coaster for him. I'm sure the thought of hitting .500 never left his mind. And that wears on you.''

Rodriguez admitted that even in the middle of a pennant chase that every so often he tried to unload on pitches to get No. 500 in the books, especially in some of the blowout games the Yankees were winning.

``It was inevitable not to try,'' Rodriguez said.

Torre gave Rodriguez a blow on Sunday, putting the infielder into the designated hitter's spot in the lineup. The team will be playing on turf in Toronto Monday through Wednesday, and Rodriguez said he had no problem with getting off his feet for a day.

Rodriguez was busy after Saturday's game, but life seemed to return to more near normal on Sunday.

The third baseman signed a bat for nearly every teammate after the long Saturday game. Giants slugger Barry Bonds called and left a message for Rodriguez, and the Yankee returned the favor after Bonds, in a night game in San Diego, hit homer No. 755 to tie Hank Aaron for No. 1 on the all-time list. Rodriguez had dinner with his wife.

Rodriguez, whose batting helmet from the at-bat will be sent to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., said he took home his uniform from the game, the lineup card and a ball signed by the umpires and a fine memory. He also has a pair of shoes with ``500'' stitched into them that he said are more apt to end up in his trophy case than they are on his feet.

"I didn't wash it, I just took it home,'' Rodriguez said of his uniform.

Now, Rodriguez begins the march toward 600. If he gets there he'll be the only non-outfielder to join Aaron, Bonds, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Sammy Sosa in that group. The infielder said 600 isn't on his mind.

``It's hard for me to talk about individual things because they are not that important,'' Rodriguez said. ``The reason I came to New York was to win. The most important thing for me is to win a World Series. Along the way of this great pursuit and passion I have for that, if you reach some of these things it's pretty nice.

``But I would never play for a record and I don't play for records,'' Rodriguez continued. ``But it would be cool.''

Giambi's on His Way: Torre said that disabled first baseman/DH Jason Giambi, disabled since June 1 with a left foot injury, is apt to join the Yankees and be activated while the team is in Toronto between Monday and Wednesday.

In his first three games rehabilitating with Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre, Giambi had one homer in three at-bats and had drawn five walks through Saturday.

Torre said it will be difficult deciding who the veteran Giambi will replace on the roster. The manager has said he likes the makeup of the team as it currently exists.

Nice Outing: Joba Chamberlain, the right-hander who was a first-round compensation draft pick in 2006 and who is close to joining the Yankees, struck out five batters in two innings of work at Scranton on Saturday.

Kit Stier is a contributor to comments