Baseball great Alex Rodriguez was drafted out of Miami’s Westminster Christian School and made his big league debut in 1994. After more than 20 years in the majors, Rodriguez returns to the city that gave him his start.
Author: Jon Warech | Photography: Randall Slavinoceandrive.com
America has spent more than two decades pontificating about Alex Rodriguez, debating his greatness after each of his 696 career home runs, or gossiping about his relationships with Madonna, Kate Hudson, and Cameron Diaz. The third baseman has been a polarizing figure in nearly every city in the country—except here in Miami, where the term “hometown hero” is never followed by an asterisk. When describing the former Mariners, Rangers, and Yankees star, he’s not just a legend, he’s our legend—for his play on the field as well as his charitable efforts, like personally granting more than 30 college scholarships for students at both the University of Miami and FIU. And, of course, his dating history gets a big thumbs-up in this town, too. (This is Miami, after all.)
So when he announced his retirement in August, the city applauded a great career and smiled at the thought that our guy was coming home. While there won’t be any more “A-bombs” from A-Rod, Rodriguez is hardly going away. In fact, if you’re a local, you can expect to see him all the time.
Retirement was obviously a tough decision after being in the game for more than 20 years. What were those final days putting on a Yankees uniform like?
For me, those days were literally a blur. Saying good-bye to the game was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but I have great memories of that last day. That was a special day. I look forward to coming back to Yankee Stadium as an advisor.
It’s been an up and down relationship with the Yankees over the years, but manager Joe Girardi got choked up a little after that game. What did you think of that?
Joe and I won a championship together, so that’s a bond that he can’t break. Every relationship has its emotional moments, but we had a nice talk before I left, and we will always stay in touch.
What will you miss most about baseball?
I’ll miss my four at-bats every day. I’ll miss the fans, and I’ll miss the clubhouse.
You probably won’t miss the New York media, which has been known to report your every move. But even before retirement, you’ve been more low-key. Does that come with age?
I think when you’ve been in the news a lot, you get to the point where you crave just being low-key, and that’s something that I’m really enjoying. One of the things I’ve learned is that when you play in the biggest media market on earth, there are a lot of advantages, but also the gossip columns have to be filled. After a while, you just get used to it.
Looking back, what moments define your career?
I think for me there’s three: the day I got drafted out of high school, the 2009 World Championship, and the whole 2015 season, the comeback. With all the adversity that I put myself through and being 40 years old and coming back, and being able to reach the post-season when we were big underdogs, that year was special.
Is there one pitcher you’re happy you don’t have to face anymore?
When you’re 41, all of them. But I would say Pedro Martinez in his prime. He’s one of the all-time greatest competitors—he was fierce on the mound, and he was going out there to destroy you every night. He had three almost unhittable pitches. The combination of his stuff and his competitiveness made him a handful.
Now you’ll be spending more time here in Miami. What do you see as the biggest difference between New York and Miami?
Miami is where I grew up. It’s where my girls go to school. It’s where I learned how to play baseball at the Boys & Girls Club. It’s also good to be around people that have known me my entire life. Plus, I love being close to the beach.
So is that how retirement looks for you? Chilling at the beach?
I just retired a few weeks ago, so I don’t know. But the one thing about Miami is that it seems like a big city from afar, but when you live here, it’s really a small town. I love the fact that Mrs. Harper at St. Stephen’s [Episcopal Day School] taught my ex-wife, Cynthia, and also taught both of my daughters.
There’s been a lot of love for Alex Rodriguez in Miami, no matter which team you were playing for. Do you feel that here?
Yeah, I’ve always felt a lot of love in Miami. One of the neatest days of my career was when I pinch-hit last year, and it was a packed house [at Marlins Park] and I got a standing ovation. That’s a moment that I’ll never forget, to get that type of love at home.
What’s the daily adjustment to retirement been like? Do you even set an alarm?
I’m still processing the whole thing, but one of the perks is being around my girls all the time, and being able to sleep in on the weekends. The two things I’m focusing on most is spending more time with my girls and getting more involved in the community with organizations that I’ve been with a really long time, like the Boys & Girls Club and the University of Miami. Two people that I consider great role models for me on the philanthropic side are Stuart Miller and Paul DiMare, who sit on the board of trustees at the University of Miami. The impact that they’ve had in the community of Miami is mind-boggling. On a smaller scale, I’d love to model myself after the choices they’ve made.
What drives that desire to give back to this community?
There were a lot of people who made major contributions in my road up to the major leagues, and one of the things I think about now is being able to pay it forward and help kids just like I was helped.
Of course, now that you’re here more, I’m sure we’ll be seeing you everywhere. Are we going to run into you nightly at Prime 112?
I love Myles (Chefetz) and Prime 112, that’s for sure, but I also spend a lot of time in Coconut Grove. My girls go to school in Coconut Grove. I love it there, places like GreenStreet [Café]. I drop off the girls and walk to Starbucks. A lot of times, you’ll also just find me at home having dinner with my daughters.
You’ve been a fashion icon throughout your career. How will a retired A-Rod dress?
As a kid, I used to see my dad wear a suit every day, and since I was 10 years old, I always wanted to wear two uniforms—a baseball uniform and a business suit. For me, simple is good. I wear a suit to work, but I also like to wear my A-Rod golf shirts and shorts. Pretty simple.
Down the road, when fans of the game look back, how do you think they will remember you?
Overall, I hope I’m remembered as a guy who worked hard, as someone who loved the game and gave it his all, and certainly someone who made mistakes but got back up after.
In five years, you will be eligible for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. That’s been a hot topic among fans. How important is it to you to get in the Hall?
Of course I would love that, but it’s not for me to say.