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A-Rod relishing rare homecoming in Miami

MIAMI -- Growing up, Alex Rodriguez watched the Mets and Braves since South Florida didn't have a Major League ballclub. He learned the fundamentals of baseball from TBS telecasts.

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As the first overall selection in the 1993 Draft, Rodriguez never could have imagined his hometown would get a franchise that same year. Sitting inside the visiting dugout at Marlins Park, he fielded questions from the media prior to Monday's opener between the Yankees and Marlins.

"I never thought Miami would have a team," Rodriguez said. "The University of Miami with Ron Fraser kind of was like the New York Yankees with Billy Martin. … Miami is an incredible market for baseball."

At 39, Rodriguez is making the trip to South Florida for just the second series of his 21-year career. He appeared in two games -- one start -- at the Marlins' old ballpark in 2009.

Rodriguez expected a busload of supporters over the next two days: 50 members from the Boys & Girls Club of Miami-Dade, players from his alma mater, Miami Westminster Christian -- which captured the state title in baseball in 2015 -- and others from Miami Columbus High School. Even his seventh-grade teacher planned on being in Little Havana.

Rodriguez's two daughters wore the Yankee pinstripes and hung out with their dad before batting practice and after the media scrum.

"It's always great to be back home," Rodriguez said. "Miami is where family is and, obviously, I have a bus of people coming in today. Family, friends, my daughters are here. High school coach, Little League coach, second-grade teacher. You name it. Obviously, I'm very excited. Never thought I'd get this opportunity to play in front of the home fans."

Despite the homecoming and Rodriguez's impending 3,000-hit milestone, Chase Headley started at third and Mark Teixeira at first. Without the designated hitter, the Yankees are essentially limited to using A-Rod as a pinch-hitter.

This season, Rodriguez has made 53 appearances (52 starts) as the DH, four games (two starts) at third and two contests (one start) at first. In 59 total games, he is batting .268 with 11 doubles, one triple, 12 homers and 32 RBIs.

"It's what we've been doing all year, for the most part," manager Joe Girardi said. "He's played third maybe once or twice and he's fallen into being really comfortable in the DH role. Sometimes two days off helps a player, so there was no thought. … We have not started him in a National League city yet. We've only done it twice. The big thing is to keep him healthy, and we feel he's got a better chance to stay healthy when he's only the DH."

With the tying run at first with two outs in the ninth, Rodriguez was announced as the pinch-hitter for Stephen Drew to a standing ovation. He flied out to shallow right for the final out of the Yankees' 2-1 loss.

Asked for the last time he got such a response from a visiting crowd, Rodriguez guessed high school.

"It was an incredible moment," Rodriguez said. "Absolutely awesome situation to be in. Fun, exciting. Got a good pitch to hit and just popped it straight up. I felt really good about the situation. I thought Joe put me in an ideal spot. Can't put me in a better spot to win. Didn't know the pitcher much, but he hung me a slider, wanted to hit a strike, wanted to hit it in the air and just popped it straight up. Just missed it."

Christina De Nicola is a contributor to
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