With the retirement of Derek Jeter much of the excitement at ballgames at Yankee Stadium has greatly lessened this season. The fans, of course, attend to root for a Yankees victory. After missing all but 44 games in 2013 after recovering from hip surgery and the entire 2014 season due to his suspension by MLB, Alex Rodriguez has returned to the Yankees with strong support from its fan base.
On Opening Day at Yankee Stadium on April 6, Rodriguez received the loudest cheers during the player introductions. That day set the tone for A-Rod’s acceptance by Yankees fans.
Since that first day of the 2015 season, Rodriguez is no longer subject to a daily dose of jeers regardless of the opinions of sportswriters and TV commentators.
Rodriguez tied Willie Mays for fourth place in the career home run rankings on Friday, May 1, at Fenway Park by hitting his 660th homer. Both Rodriguez and fans in the Bronx were disappointed that the milestone home run was not hit at Yankee Stadium, but realized that more special days were to come.
The Yankees returned to the Bronx after their most recent road trip on Thursday, May 7, to begin a four game homestand against the Orioles, who had completed a two game series with the Mets at Citi Field one day earlier.
In the first inning of Thursday’s game, Rodriguez drove in the first run of the yanks with a sacrifice fly to deep center field that scored Jacoby Ellsbury from third base to tie the score at 1.
What Yankee fans had been looking forward to seeing took place in the third inning with two out. Rodriguez belted a 1-1 pitch from Baltimore starter Chris Tillman over the fence in left for his 661st home run. The four-bagger broke the tie with Mays, one day after the former Giant and Met celebrated his 84th birthday, and gave him the sole fourth place ranking in home runs behind only Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds.
Rodriguez took time to praise the Hall of famer he was tied with during his press conference, “Nobody will ever surpass Willie mays. He’s a legend and a role model for us all. He’s was my father’s favorite player.”
The Oriole right-hander has been an easy mark for Rodriguez. The home run was his sixth hit in 11 at bats off Tillman. Four of the hits were homers and his runs batted in now number 9.
The solo home run broke the tied score to give the Yanks a 3-2 advantage. The extended ovation from the fans brought Rodriguez out of the dugout for a short and rare curtain call.
Rodriguez spoke with embarrassment of the surprising tribute from the fans, “One year ago, I never thought I would get one again. It’s been a long time. I was a little embarrassed. It was a little awkward. I tried to do it as fast as I could. I didn’t want it to get in the way. I wanted the game to continue.”
The controversial superstar discussed his gratitude toward the fans with emotion, “They [fans] treated me so good all year long. I would want to go out and thank every fan.” He also paid special tribute to those of his heritage in the Dominican Republic, “This home run is for the entire country.”