A-Rod hits home run No. 660 to tie Mays
Yankees slugger emotional in aftermath
BOSTON -- The memories remain vivid for Alex Rodriguez all this time later, walking through the red-brick corridors of Fenway Park as a fresh-faced 18-year-old, waving to family members in the crowd and being excited to share the field with Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez.
Much has changed since then, and Rodriguez spent part of his afternoon Friday acknowledging the regrets of the years that have passed. He walked out those same doors hours later with a piece of history, hitting his 660th home run and tying Willie Mays for fourth place on the home run list in the Yankees' 3-2 victory over the Red Sox.
"I don't know what it means," Rodriguez said. "I'm actually very excited; just trying to stay in the moment. It's good to do it in a good team win. I got emotional there."
Hearing deafening boos after being announced as an eighth-inning pinch-hitter for Garrett Jones, Rodriguez worked the count to 3-0 against Red Sox right-hander Junichi Tazawa before looking down the third-base line and picking up a green light.
Tazawa fired a 94-mph fastball and Rodriguez unloaded on it, lining a laser above the Green Monster in left field, where it was retrieved by a fan in the third row. It marked the first pinch-hit homer of Rodriguez's career.
"Congratulations to Alex Rodriguez on his 660th home run," Mays said in a statement. "Milestones in baseball are meant to be broken and I wish him continued success throughout his career."
Speaking through an interpreter, Tazawa said that he was aware of the home run's historical significance.
"I wasn't thinking about that at all," Tazawa said. "I should have used my breaking ball before I got to that point. I have regrets about how I approached that at-bat. But I wasn't thinking about [the milestone]."
Rodriguez's home run left the bat at 117 mph and traveled a distance of 419 feet as tracked by Statcast, with a launch angle of 19 degrees. Led by manager Joe Girardi, Brett Gardner and Mark Teixeira, many of Rodriguez's teammates applauded the blast.
"What the home run meant to us tonight, those guys have been with Al and have had to see him deal with a lot," Girardi said. "Some of these guys have been with him for a while -- Tex, Gardy -- some of these guys understand, when we go on the road, all that he has to deal with. They were happy for him."
It was Rodriguez's sixth homer since returning from a performance-enhancing drug suspension that forced him to miss the entire 2014 season, and Rodriguez said that his mind wandered as he rounded the bases.
"Just thinking about my girls, wondering if they were up or if they were sleeping back home," Rodriguez said. "My mom. All the folks that stayed with me through the last few years. Just grateful to the fans, to the Yankees, to my teammates, to Major League Baseball."
The homer promises to set up a debate between Rodriguez and the Yankees regarding its standing as a "milestone" homer. There was no special in-stadium announcement to mark the occasion, though Rodriguez's home run total and the fact that he tied Mays were announced in the Fenway Park press box.
Rodriguez's contract contains a $6 million incentive clause for tying Mays, as well as Babe Ruth (714), Henry Aaron (755) and Barry Bonds (762), plus an additional $6 million if he were to become the all-time home run leader. The Yankees contend that they cannot market those achievements due to Rodriguez's history with PEDs and last year's historic suspension.
"I'm so in the moment right now," Rodriguez said. "I'm really grateful to be playing baseball. Those things will take care of themselves."
Of Rodriguez's 660 home runs, 315 were hit with the Yankees (2004-15), 189 with the Mariners (1995-2000) and 156 with the Rangers (2001-03). Rodriguez will probably not have the opportunity to cradle homer No. 660 in his hands.
A Yankees security official attempted to retrieve the ball, but the fan, Mike Shuster, told the New York Post that he will not give the ball to Rodriguez.
"Well, I haven't been good at negotiating, so I'm going to quit on that," Rodriguez quipped.
Rodriguez said that he had already heard from numerous family members, friends and former teammates in the moments after the homer, and as he conducted a postgame interview on the field, Rodriguez's eyes watered. Many will debate the significance of Rodriguez tying Mays, but it clearly means a great deal to Rodriguez.
"As a kid, I just thought about playing in the Major Leagues and really not knowing if I could ever make it," Rodriguez said. "I thought about the Boys & Girls Club, where I learned how to play baseball. A lot of things. It's been quite a ride and I'm just happy that I'm in a good place right now."