A storm, a big hit, cheers punctuate A-Rod's farewell

August 13th, 2016

NEW YORK -- First, there was a tremendous thunderstorm Friday night that shed a torrent of rain on Yankee Stadium. The deluge gave way to a partial rainbow that stripped the dark, gray sky to the left and above the huge videoboard that hovers over center field.
The baseball gods were definitely in conflict as began his final game as a Yankee and perhaps in Major League Baseball.
"It was certainly biblical," Rodriguez said after he ushered out his 22-year career with a 6-3 win over the Rays, the Yankees' third in a row. "You could hear the thunder crackle. You can't make that up. I guess we went out with a bang."
The environmental dichotomy is certainly the way A-Rod will be remembered as a baseball player. The good and the bad. The yin and the yang. And in the end, more than a season and a half of pure redemption.
America is a country of second chances, after all. And because of that, more than anything else, Yankees principal owner Hal Steinbrenner asked Rodriquez to continue with the club through the end of his contract in 2017 as an advisor and instructor to the young players.
Rodriguez was unconditionally released after going 1-for-4 in his last game with an RBI double. Manager Joe Girardi, who broke down in tears during his postgame news conference, gave him a graceful exit by putting A-Rod in the game in the ninth for one batter to play third base. He then left to an ovation.
"It's been a great run, an incredible journey," Rodriguez said. "I never thought that when I entered Fenway Park as an 18-year-old [for the Mariners], I'd be playing for 10 years, let alone 22 years.
"I'm going to take this whole week to go down memory lane and remember the good things that happened. I've thought a lot about 2009 and the world championship here. That's a memory we all have forever. Also, Hal's given me an opportunity to stay involved in the organization.
"With all my screwups and how badly I acted, the fact that I'm walking out the door and Hal wants me as part of the family, that's like hitting 800 home runs for me. That's something I'm going to be able to share with my daughters for a long time."
The fact is, there was some baseball life left in the 41-year-old right-handed hitter, who leaves the game four short of 700 home runs.
On Thursday night at Fenway Park, A-Rod went 0-for-4, popping out on the infield twice, striking out once and driving in the game's final run in a 4-2 win with an eighth-inning nubber in front of the plate.
"Look, I made contact three times. That was a great night," said Rodriguez, who finished with two hits in his last 28 at-bats, dating back to his last home run on July 18. "I was on the plane, and we were celebrating the contactability. And that was good."
A-Rod methodically worked during batting practice in Friday's stifling heat and humidity, not trying to slug the ball into the nether reaches of the nearly 8-year-old ballpark, but to simply stroke line drives safely into the outfield.
Like the old pro he is with 3,115 hits, No. 13 did just that with rapidity and then took it into the game, slamming a first-inning 2-2 pitch from Rays right-hander on a line into the gap in right-center for the double that scored from first. It was the 2,086th and last RBI of his career.

Rodriguez is justifiably proud of his on-field comeback last season after missing all of 2014 because of a drug-related suspension. That has been well-documented. But A-Rod is even more proud of the behavioral adjustments he had to make since his return to the game, and he talked a lot about that as well this week.
Take it from someone who has known Rodriguez since he broke into the game in 1994, the difference was pretty stark.
"I think one of the things I learned while I was serving my suspension was that I screwed up and I screwed up in a big way," Rodriguez said. "I think acknowledging that was step one. No. 2, I learned that I had to surround myself with the right people. And No. 3, I had to make a lot of uncomfortable phone calls and have meetings in person, apologizing to a lot of people.
"And then I had to go out and carry on and behave in a totally different way. I think in the last two years, I was proudest of that. I don't know anything about numbers and the Hall of Fame, but I am happy that I've been able to comport myself in a rightful way."
Three of the most important people A-Rod said he had to apologize to was his mother, Lourdes, and his young daughters, Natasha and Ella, 11 and 8, respectively.
The three were on hand Friday night during a brief on-field ceremony that began with the skies darkening and ended with rain pelting the playing field. Mariano Rivera was there, and so was Reggie Jackson. All of them had to scurry for cover.

A sellout crowd of 46,459 waited out a 30-minute delay and then chanted and exhorted Rodriguez on all night.
After it was all over, A-Rod strode to third base and gathered a scoop of dirt to take home with him to Miami in a small plastic bag.
"Third base is where I lived," Rodriguez said. "I came in 2004 as a shortstop and made the switch to third base. It was a tough adjustment. And then I felt comfortable."
So were the baseball gods. In the end, even they seemed to be content.