02/17/2004 8:21 PM ET
Yankees introduce their new star
Huge reception as A-Rod makes his Bronx entrance
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Feeling "like a kid" again, Alex Rodriguez climbed into his ride Tuesday morning and, fearful every turn of the wheel that "someone will pinch and wake me up," made his way to Yankee Stadium, his home for the next seven years.
And he promised World Series championships in six of them.
Glancing at Derek Jeter sitting to his right at the head of a Stadium Club packed beyond the rafters, Rodriguez noted, "Derek has four world championships.
"I want him to have 10. I'm here to help him."
At what many Big Apple veterans described as the most electric, most sensational occasion in a history of sensationally electric occassions, A-Rod was formally introduced as a Yankee.
|Alex Rodriguez smiles during Tuesday's press conference at Yankee Stadium. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
He was welcomed to town by manager Joe Torre, Jeter, Reggie Jackson and the heart of the Yankees' elated front office ... Hal Steinbrenner, club president Randy Levine, chief operating officer Lonn Trost, and of course general manager Brian Cashman and assistant GM Jean Afterman.
With people scribbling, snapping, taping and filming in every nook and cranny of the venerable Stadium Club, Levine stepped to the microphone to herald, "This is the beginning. We welcome a great baseball player. A great New York Yankee."
As Rodriguez for the first time slipped into his No. 13 uniform, and drew it over his appropriately pinstriped necktie, the room broke into spontaneous applause.
With Torre on one side of him and Captain Jeter on the other, the scene was somewhat reminiscent of the scene following the final game of a World Series. As if the trio were accepting the Commissioner's Trophy.
Much of the rest of baseball, of course, fears it was a rehearsal for just that, that a lineup now built on Rodriguez, Jeter, Jason Giambi, Hideki Matsui, Jorge Posada and Gary Sheffield is unstoppable.
Jackson injected a note of caution.
"This team could win 102 games, and it would not matter," Jackson said. "The only thing that matters is winning the next 11 [playoff games].
"Doesn't matter if we're here talking about the greatest lineup, this and that. The jury comes in on Oct. 27."
The first word out of the mouths of both Cashman and Rodriguez was "Wow."
"What a reception ... ," Rodriguez said. "It's awesome. I'm happy to be here, to be in a situation where I'll relish coming to the park every day. I look forward to it."
"We're excited and proud for the chance to present one of the game's greatest players," Cashman said. "We welcome Alex Rodriguez and his family to our family."
Considering how Rodriguez walked into the eye of a media tumult and tamed it, without breaking a bead of perspiration, this is obviously a guy you want up in the clutch.
Their ability to adapt to the city's main athletic stage is a question routinely asked of newcomers, but Rodriguez clearly is beyond doubt.
"He already knows what it's like to have people follow his every move," Jeter said.
Yet, even for baseball's highest-paid and often highest-esteemed player, Tuesday's scene was a bit overwhelming.
"I can't find the adjectives to describe it," said Rodriguez, who actually did not seem adjective-challenged.
"Coming to the Yankees, I feel energized, reborn," said the six-time All-Star and reigning MVP. "I feel special, honored.
"My passion and love for baseball is second to none. Wearing the pinstripes gives me the chance to represent the best organization in baseball."
As for his new nemeses, the Boston Red Sox, the team whose side he nearly took in this rivalry, Rodriguez said, "I'm so focused on the New York Yankees, on where we are and where we're going ...
"I understand the tradition and history both teams and cities have, and you can now add this to that tradition."
To earn his pinstripes, Rodriguez had to agree to a position switch, and his presence at third base to the right of Jeter will obviously remain a hot-potato topic as long as the two are teammates.
"At this point in my career, winning is the most important thing," said Rodriguez, who, shockingly, has spent his 10-year career in Seattle and Texas a cumulative 21 games under .500. "The Yankees provide the opportunity to win every day you drive to the park.
"It's simply team over person."
In a few days, Rodriguez will check into Tampa and begin his third-base education under professor Graig Nettles.
"I look forward to learning and getting tips from Nettles," Rodriguez said of the former All-Star third baseman who regularly contributes in Spring Training as an instructor. "The whole thing will be new to me.
"The party is just beginning."
-- Derek Jeter|
"It's a whole different challenge. But as a shortstop, I had the flexibility to handle any type of play. And I'm going to work my butt off to be the best third baseman I can be."
Jeter envisioned a high ceiling: "I think he'll be the best."
Both Rodriguez and Jeter, decade-long friends since chatting about baseball in 1993, revealed that they've often talked about becoming teammates. In their fantasy, Rodriguez said, his grand design always was coming to the Yankees, and playing third base.
The catch is, he envisioned doing so at the end of his career, in one of those typical seasoned-veteran moves.
"It was a running joke between us," Rodriguez said, "but I always expected it to happen when I'm 38, not 28."
He's here now, when both he and Derek are still under 30.
"We're gonna make a great tag-team," A-Rod said. "We're going to have fun."
That matches Jeter's expectations.
Soon after Rodriguez's trade to the Yankees, with Alfonso Soriano moving to Texas, was finalized, Rodriguez's wife, Cynthia, exhaled to Jeter: "I'm glad this is finally all over."
Derek's response: "The party is just beginning."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.