Thursday, October 4, 2007
Can A-Rod Finally Deliver In the Postseason?
Alex Rodriguez--back in the day at Westminster Christian
Let me start off by saying I hate the New York Yankees. In fact I dislike all New York teams. But when it comes to Alex Rodriguez, I'll admit I have soft spot for A-Rod and wish him the best.
Long before Alex Rodriguez was ever a national superstar, I remember seeing him for the first time in the spring of 1991. Back then, I knew a guy named Adrian Antonini who played baseball at Westminster Christian High School, which had a powerhouse baseball program in Southern Miami-Dade County then coached by the Rich Hoffman. Adrian was a catcher on Westminster's team and later went on to play college ball at LSU. Antonini told me about a 10th grade shortstop who just transferred to Westminster from Columbus High and said he was the best player he ever saw. I have to admit, I was kind of skeptical. But when Antonini describe the 15 year old baseball prodigy, he made him sound like a player the game had never seen before. So I had to check out this phenom for myself.
Sure enough, there he was. It didn't take very long to notice Alex Rodriguez in high school. He was the biggest, the fastest and the most graceful and developed player on the field. He literally looked like a man playing with and against boys. Westminster was playing Gulliver Prep that afternoon. In his first at bat of the game, Rodriguez crushed a pitch over the centerfield fence. He would hit another home run a couple of at-bats later. In the field, he was smooth as butter. I couldn't believe I was awed watching a 15 year old boy playing baseball. It was quite surreal.
All these years later, I don't know where Adrian Antonini is today. But I'd like to thank him for telling me about Alex Rodriguez. For those of us who have followed local high sports, we've literally watch Alex Rodriguez grow into what he is today--A-Rod.
Alex Rodriguez is simply the greatest athlete South Florida has ever produced. That's right. He's better than Michael Irvin, Chris Evert, Ted Hendricks or Derrick Thomas. At age 32, A-Rod has hit 518 career home runs, twice won American League MVP awards and several gold gloves as a shortstop and third baseman. At his current pace, he will eventually surpass Barry Bonds as the baseball's greatest home run hitter--provided he stays healthy continues his passion for the game.
He's done just about everything you can possibly accomplish as an athlete, except one thing--win a championship. Growing up in Miami, Alex's favorite athlete was Dan Marino. He even wears number #13 as a tribute to his idol. But just like Marino, Rodriguez has yet to wear a championship ring and everybody never lets him forget it. Rodriguez's struggles in the playoffs have been well-documented. Just last year, A-Rod's batting average was a pathetic .098 (4 for 41) in New York's playoff series loss to Detroit. He has zero RBI in his last 12 postseason games. His lack of success in October has made him the target of the New York media.
If I have one major criticism of A-Rod, it's that he tries too hard to please everyone. He actually cares what people think of him. But those faults are also a postive. He's given generously to local charities and organizations. He's been a longtime supporter of the Boys & Girls Clubs. He once donated $4 million to the University of Miami to help rennovate its baseball stadium even though he never attended UM. But he's always had a love for the school and grew up a Canes fan. He had accepted a scholarship to play baseball at UM. But when the Seattle Mariners made him the first pick of the 1993 amateur draft, it was too much money to ignore.
I really don't want to see the Yankees win the World Series. They have the most spoiled and obnoxious fans. But a part of me really wants Alex Rodriguez to finally get that monkey off his back and exorcise those demons. But I have a feeling once A-Rod starts succeeding in the postseason, the same New York trolls who hate him will start kissing his butt. The Big Apple really doesn't deserve him.