Alex Rodriguez is once again dressed in Yankees pinstripes, this time, though, it’s as a special instructor and mentor to a slew of highly touted minor league prospects.
Love him or hate him, Alex Rodriguez is the perfect individual to speak to young talent looking to find stable footing on their way to potential big league careers.
Performance enhancing drugs aside, let us not forget that this man came on the scene at the tender age of 19. After 22 seasons, Rodriguez was a 14-time All-Star at two different positions, a 3-time AL MVP, hit the 4th most home runs (696) and 3rd most RBI (2,086) of all-time!
Towards the end of his illustrious–yet tainted career, A-Rod took six separate trips to the disabled list–missed the entire 2014 season due to suspension, only to come back in 2015 and lead the Yankees to the playoffs at the age of 40.
Stationed at Derek Jeter Field at the Yankees’ Spring Training complex in Tampa, Florida, Rodriguez spoke to 55 players on Saturday morning. Some of the notable blue-chip prospects in attendance are the organization’s No. 1 prospect (Clint Frazier), No. 3 prospect (Jorge Mateo), as well as 2016 first round pick Blake Rutherford.
When asked about the level of talent the Yankees’ farm system currently has, Rodriguez was quick to point out there are more names to remember than just Gary Sanchez.
“There is as much good young talent that I’ve seen here in all my years with the Yankees, and that is exciting for our fan base,’’ Rodriguez said. “It’s really an exciting time and really a testament to Damon Oppenheimer [VP of amateur scouting] and Gary and the job they’ve done, both by drafting and then developing. It’s a great one-two combination for us.
“This gives us an incredible amount of hope for now and the future. There is the emergence of a kid like Gary Sanchez, who has taken the world by storm, you see what [Greg] Bird did last year. You see what Tyler [Austin] and [Bryan] Mitchell and some of our young players have done. I’m not only proud of the way they are playing, but they are coming up there with the right attitude and comporting themselves in a way that is going to be good.”
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The well spoken Rodriguez decided not too long after Sanchez’s mammoth early August home run against the Red Sox that it was time for him to pack it in as a player and begin the next phase of his life.
“When he hit that bomb off Tazawa in Boston when I was there, I started to think it’s about time for me to take care of my girls because I could no longer do that,” Rodriguez said. “When you’re in the dugout and you can feel somebody’s heart beat at game time, you can tell there’s unique calmness about him. It’s very unusual for a rookie. Pretty awesome to see what he’s doing.”
Though Rodriguez is headed to Los Angeles next week to continue his stellar work as a studio analyst for Fox Sports’ presentation of the MLB Postseason, he made it loud and clear that even though he is enjoying life outside of baseball–taking trips around the world with his daughters, and just being a regular guy who goes to Starbucks first thing in the morning–he is dedicated to helping the Yankees long into the future.
“It’s our debt,’’ Rodriguez said of passing along lessons to the younger players. “We owe the game. In many ways, it’s our responsibility to pay it forward.
“The talent jumps off the page. Right now I’m just collecting a lot of information, trying to understand their strengths and weaknesses and try to understand their personalities. That plays a big part of developing these young players before they get to The Bronx.
“It’s not just tools,’’ he continued. “It’s different sides you want to focus on. For me, it’s get to know them, build some trust, exchange numbers and hopefully when they go through some rough times or when they want to tell me how good they are feeling, we have an open dialogue that can help them even a little bit to get to the big leagues.’’
So for all the cynics out there that only believe A-Rod is in Tampa because he wants to save face while collecting the $21MM he’s owed through the completion of next season, I say to you, so what?
The Yankees have to pay the man regardless if he shows up to work as a special instructor or not. Just give him the benefit of the doubt–he obviously feels he’s doing the right thing, trying to give back to a game that gave him so much–and continues to. So who are we to take that away from him.
These young Yankees would be wise to heed Rodriguez’s warning. I mean who else had the type of career he did? The answer is no one.