A-Rod grateful for last act with YankeesIn camp as a special instructor, Rodriguez at peace with close of MLB career
After Rodriguez's first laid-back day as a $21 million instructor was over, he confirmed that his playing career was over, too. Surprisingly, it took until the third question of a press conference for Rodriguez to be asked if he was retired and, without a hint of hesitation, ARod said that he was.
"Yes, I am," retired, said Rodriguez, when the R-word was first broached.
When Rodriguez was asked if he had any urge to try and return, he said, "Zero."As I watched A-Rod have a memorable finale at Yankee Stadium last August 12, a night that ended with his two daughters dashing on to the field to embrace him, I was convinced that he would never play again. His final game with the Yankees was too picturesque for Rodriguez to smudge that image by trying to play with another team, especially since he had looked so overmatched in his final weeks.
While Rodriguez revealed that a few teams made offers to him after he left the Yankees, he didn't seriously consider returning to play. Rodriguez poked fun at himself by wondering why any teams would have interest in a .200 hitter. He refused to identify the teams who contacted him, repeatedly saying how important it was to retire as a Yankee.
"I know there was kind of a general sense that I would probably come back to play last year," Rodriguez said. "But being a Yankee means everything to me. I'm grateful to Hank and Hal for the opportunity they gave me to rehab my life and get my life back together from all the big mistakes I've made. So walking out with my mother and my two daughters is something I'll never forget. So I thank Hal and the New York Yankees for giving me that."
A-Rod is a fascinating character, a player who speaks passionately about how to play and teach the game and who dissects the game more adeptly than anyone I have ever covered. But he is also a player who was suspended for the entire 2014 season because of his use of performance enhancing drugs. Rodriguez said he won't be shy about recounting his greatest mistakes to help educate younger players.
Now that Rodriguez won't pick up a bat again and will finish his career with 3,115 hits, 696 homers, 2,086 runs batted in, three Most Valuable Player Awards and one World Series ring, he wants to impart wisdom from his "playbook" to the next wave of Yankees. Rodriguez will spend three days here this week and three more in March, but he said the experiences away from the field could be the most pivotal. He ruminated about counseling players during three-hour dinners to help "get them ready for what's expected" in New York.
Sounding like a motivational speaker, Rodriguez said it was his job to surround himself with young players and try to help them win the "battle of discipline" before they make it to the Bronx. Rodriguez said the Yankees want their players to be in tremendous physical and mental condition, to have a great work ethic, to be maniacal about their daily routines and to be world masters at the fundamentals of the sport.
Rodriguez made his major league debut as an 18-year old and once cried in the dugout to Manager Lou Piniella after striking out against Dennis Eckersley. So Rodriguez intimately understands what it is like to be an elite player who is supposed to excel. As Yankee players like Greg Bird, Aaron Judge, Luis Severino and others try to prove they can be productive, ARod said it's essential that they receive ample playing time, even if it's "painful to watch."
At times, A-Rod's journey was painful to watch because some of his reckless decisions impacted how his career will be viewed. But, with his playing career over, Rodriguez seemed to be at peace and also seemed to be excited with the next phase of his life. Given the chance to offer some clarity on the many twists and turns he has experienced, he did it smoothly.
"If I just had to say one word, I'm really grateful," Rodriguez said, "Again, if it wasn't for Hal Steinbrenner believing in me and giving me one more chance to get my life back in order, I wouldn't be here today. And I think, because of him and the opportunity, I'm in a really good place. I'm in a good place with my daughters, my family. I get to spend time with my mother. And I get to be part of the greatest organization in the world."