AROD.com - News


10/03/2007 10:00 PM ET

First, I want to thank all of you who have taken the time to write to me throughout the season. There are so many e-mails coming in, it is impossible to keep up, but I am trying. Your words of encouragement and support mean so much to me, and many of you have also asked some terrific questions. I have answered several here now, and I hope to get to a lot more of your e-mails after the postseason.

Thanks again for writing,

Question: What was behind your decision to wear your socks high this year? I like the look and started wearing them like that this year ... and then lot of other kids starting wearing them high too. Did you realize it would have such an impact on us Little Leaguers? Will they ever go back down? Do you think pulling them up has had anything to do with the amazing season you've had -- even a little bit?
-- Tommy F., Fort Lee, N.J.

Alex: Hi Tommy, there really wasn't one reason why I started wearing my socks high. I just thought it looked like a Notre Dame football player and a few of my friends liked the look so I said, what the heck. Why not? It's was a new year so I went with a new look.

To be honest, I had no idea it had an impact on Little Leaguers. That's pretty cool that I've started a new trend. With that being said, I don't think that I would ever wear my socks down again. I've really gotten used wearing them this way and I'm enjoying it. But I never say never. And no, I don't think my socks had anything to do with the year I've had. Good luck with the rest of the Little League season.

Q: Alex, TV commentators have been very impressed with your "wiping hands action" before throwing balls to the first base. When did you start doing it, and do you do that consciously?
-- Shigemi H., Tokyo, Japan

Alex: Hi Shigemi, thank you for writing me all the way from Tokyo. I think I actually started the "wiping my hands action" here at Yankee Stadium because it's always so wet and muddy here, which is the way we like it. It's muddy and wet in a good way because the mud helps you get a better grip on the ball and the ball stays down when it's muddy and soft. Just remember when you go down and grab a handful of mud, make sure your hands are dry before you make the throw.

Q: My 14-year-old son admires you very much and is a very good third baseman and hitter and wants to improve his arm strength and bat speed to hit with more power next year. He has never lifted weights and would like to know the baseball specific offseason program you do? Any pointers you may have about stance, grip, what starts the swing, etc.? Thanks.
-- Steve D., Gahanna, Ohio

Alex: Hey Steve, it's nice to hear your son admires me. Thank you. I would recommend your son playing a lot of long toss and swinging the bat under water. For me, those two drills seemed to increase my arm strength and bat speed the most. Since your son is just 14, I would not suggest he lift weights just yet, but rather focus on push-ups and pull-ups. Regarding his stance and grip, it's important to stay relaxed and keep things simple.

Q: Can you take us through waking up the morning of Aug. 4. You had a day game after a night game with KC, and after a long hitless streak stuck on 499 HR, you were showing signs of getting into a groove again, but all anyone thought about was 500. Were you? When you drove to the Stadium, did you feel this would be the day? Take us through that day and what that at-bat was like please?
-- John S, Baghdad, Iraq

Alex: Hello John, thank you for taking the time to write me all the way from Iraq. First of all, when I was driving to the stadium on Aug. 4, I had no idea that would be the day I was going to hit my 500th home run. I really didn't think anything of it. Let's see, I woke up and had breakfast with my family then came to the yard early to get some work in with my hitting coach, Kevin Long. That first pitch was a memorable one ... I was surprised to hit the home run on my first swing. I had already waited 14 days, so any day could have been the day. Plus, the team was playing really well so that was really my main focus.

Q: Dear Alex, I am a NYC Public School Teacher. My students and I were having a discussion surrounding the importance of getting an education. One student stated, "Well, look at these athletes getting paid millions of dollars and they aren't very concerned about getting an education." How would you, as an athlete, explain the importance of getting an education to youngsters?
-- Annette R., Brooklyn, N.Y.

Alex: Hi Annette, I think education is very important and it should come first and foremost in anyone's life. I don't think all athletes aren't concerned with getting an education, but sometimes when the opportunity to become a professional athlete arises, you take it, because it may not come around again.

When you're an athlete and you have an education, you have something to fall back on and you play with a lot less pressure to make it to the big leagues. With me, I was pursuing a business degree, so I always knew if things didn't work out with baseball, I still had other opportunities to become successful in life.

There is never a guarantee that baseball, or any sport for that matter, will become your career, so it's very important to stay in school, do well in school and have an education to back you up.

Q: I was looking at your pictures on the timeline. I saw the picture of you posing as a left-handed hitter. Are you originally a southpaw?
-- Paul R., Sharpsbug, Ga.

Alex: No, Paul. I was never a southpaw. In that particular photo, I posed left-handed because I was imitating the switch-hitter Willie McGee. But no, I've always been right-handed.

Q: I am a Minor Leaguer in the Tampa bay organization and I'm having some problems with my drop step at third base. Do you have any drills that I can do?
-- Jeremy A., Winston-Salem, N.C.

Alex: Hi Jeremy, I have a couple of drills in mind, but I would just try to play as may balls off the bat as possible. For instance, during batting practice, try to catch as many balls off the bat as possible. I think that's the best way to work on your drop step.

Q: I am a Triple-A shortstop and I was wondering what the toughest part of changing positions was for you? I have been told that I should play third base, but feel more comfortable at short.
-- Maxx T, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Alex: Hey Maxx, obviously it wasn't easy for me to switch positions late in my career and there were a few things that were difficult to adjust to when I made the move from shortstop to third base. But the hardest thing for me was probably adjusting to the angle at third. After 10 years at short, it was hard for me to get comfortable with all the different angles, both throwing and fielding. But with a lot of extra practice and hard work, I eventually adjusted.

Q: Who do you credit your success in hitting and fielding to?
-- Matthew F., Fort Monmouth, N.J.

Alex: Hi Matthew, I've been lucky to have had a lot of great mentors throughout my career, but I have to go back to the early days and credit my high school coach Rich Hofman at Westminster Christian in Miami. He was probably the most influential person and coach to me.

Q: I was just wondering who is your best friend on the team? I also want to know your kids names?
-- Samantha G., Matawan N.J.

Alex: Hello Samantha, I am close with everyone and have a lot of great friends on the Yankees, so it's hard for me to say I have one best friend. But I am probably the closest with Mariano Rivera. I have one daughter and her name is Natasha.

Q: What did you do to get your arm so strong?
-- Tyler J., Bishopville, SC

Alex: Hi Tyler, as I was telling Steve from Ohio earlier, long toss is the best way to develop and increase your arm strength. If you've ever come to a game early enough to watch batting practice, you'll see myself, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter and others playing catch at least 50 feet apart. Long toss is an excellent drill and I believe it's been the most beneficial to me.

Q: What are the three goals you hope to achieve by your retirement?
-- Natalie C, Wall Township, N.J.

Alex: Hi Natalie, it's no secret my main goal before retirement is to win a championship. Individual awards are an honor to receive, but my main goal right now is to win as a team. I think the Yankees finally have both the pitching and the offense to go deep into the postseason, so hopefully this is the year for the Yankees, and I hope to be a part of that.

Aside from winning a World Series, I hope to have a healthy and long career and stay injury free, as I have for the most part. I'd also like have the opportunity to mentor young players as they come up and help with their development. As I told Maxx in Canada, I've had so many great mentors along the way, so I understand the importance of having a good teacher and role model. Hopefully I can do the same for others.

Q: Growing up, were there any doubts that your dream might not come true? If so, how did you overcome the setbacks?
-- Shivam B.

Alex: Hi Shivam, growing up, I honestly never had any huge expectations of becoming the next Cal Ripken or the next superstar. With a lot of hard work, it just kind of turned out that way. But I also made sure I didn't set myself up for disappointment. I always had big goals, and when I was in high school, that's when my dream started to become more of a reality. There will always be setbacks in life, but as long as you stay focused and never give up on your dreams, you'll find success.


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