Alex Rodriguez will always be my go to guy. For 10 years, when kids were in trouble, I was always able to go to Alex and he would help. I would say that a group of kid’s needed “x” amount of money to play Little League, or I needed him for a school outing, etc. He never questioned it. He just went into his pocket and helped out or visited the kids.
Sometimes, I would tell Alex that a visit at the ballfield, hospital or school would have a bigger impact than money and he would make many an unannounced visit to the kids. I will never forget one day when we set up a visit at a ballfield in the Bronx after a Yankee game, and there were over 3000 kids and parents waiting for him. A negative person – who probably was not an Alex fan – said that there was no way that A-Rod would show up because he had just struck out five times in the game.
The kids were very disappointed to hear that, but all of a sudden a loud screeching cheer was heard and you could see the people open up like the parting of the Red Sea to let Alex Rodriguez through the crowd. He spoke to all of the kids and parents about love and the fact that like so many others, he had come from a broken home. He spoke about how his mom had been his everything and how mentors in his life helped him to be where he is today. He spoke beautifully and with dignity and told the kids about how reading was so important in his life. He spoke about how the head of the Boys and Girls Club had picked up the slack in his life when his father was not there. He told them how Lou Piniella, his manager in Seattle, was more a father figure than a manager. I listened with tears in my eyes because I know Piniella and I know of the incredible person that he is. To know Alex Rodriguez is to love him.
I know that I am loved in different parts of the Bronx because Alex has never let me down when it came to going to different areas and events and quietly helping a lot of people out. I will never forget a couple of times when the field was wet at Yankee Stadium and batting practice was called off. One time, Alex and I went to an empty lot on River Avenue and played stickball with the kids. Only kids were allowed in the lot. Adults watched from the outside part of the chain-link fence. When we got there, there were about 10 kids, word spread and we finished with about 300 kids on the lot. After we finished playing, we took the kids to Billy’s Sports Lounge for hot dogs and soda.
Billy Martin once told me, after I said to him that I had been a bad person before George Steinbrenner and the Yankees gave me a second chance in life, “Show me a person that says he’s never messed up and I’ll show you a liar.” Everyone deserves a second chance- A-Rod was no exception. Can he have an attitude? Yes he can. But, can’t we all sometimes? I am proud to know Alex Rodriguez but I am even prouder of how Hal Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees organization has dealt with the A-Rod situation and let him go out very much the way George Steinbrenner would have, with his pride and his dignity.