On Friday, August 12th 2016, I traveled to Yankee Stadium like I had done countless of times before. I met with a friend who I had not seen in over a year, we went to have lunch at a Korean BBQ grill in Manhattan. After lunch, I boarded the D train at 34th Street heading uptown towards my native Bronx. I made to the stadium gate shortly before 5:00 p.m. I was surprised to see so many people waiting for the gates to open, since, from my past experiences, the fans that are attending the game arrive in these large numbers 30 minutes before the first pitch and not two hours like in my case.
This weekend was going to be a busy one for the Yankee fans. The Yankees came into this weekend less than five games from a Wild Card berth, playing against a division rival who had swept them in their previous encounter at Tampa, Florida. On Saturday, the Yankees were set to honor the 1996 World Series championship team as it was their 20th anniversary; on Sunday the Yankees were going to honor their long time closer Mariano Rivera with a plaque in Monument Park. For me, the most important day of this weekend was on Friday. CC Sabathia got the start against the Rays’ Chris Archer and the Yankees were giving away replicas of the 1996 World Series Trophy. However, neither of these were the reasons why this game was the most important one in this weekend. The real reason: This would be the last game played by my favorite player on a Yankee uniform.
Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez, most commonly referred to as Alex Rodriguez and by fans as A-Rod, was set to play his final game. The Yankees had announced that they planned on releasing him from the team after the game, one year prior to the end of his 10-year 275 million dollar contract which he signed in 2007. Alex had not played regularly for nearly a month, having been benched by manager Joe Girardi because of his lack of production at the plate, opting to have Carlos Beltran take his spot in the lineup. The Yankees were going to honor Rodriguez with a ceremony prior to the start of the game, but as they did, the sky turned dark, claps of thunder sounded every time the public address announcer mentioned Rodriguez’ name, and lightning could be seen to the left of the center field board. Rodriguez was given a base signed by his teammates, and a framed jersey with his number 13 on it, and as he received it the rain began to pour onto the field forcing him and his family into the clubhouse.
I sat on section 431B, waiting for the ground crew to take the tarp off the field so that the game could begin. The Yankees chose to play all of Rodriguez’ walk up songs that he had used throughout his career in pinstripes while we waited. Most of the songs were Jay-Z songs such as "Numb/Encore" and "Run This Town." The game began at 8:00 p.m., one hour after the scheduled start, and very quickly the Rays got on the board with a Home Run from Evan Longoria. During the bottom of the first, with Brett Gardner on first base and one out, Alex drilled a pitch to right center field for an RBI stand-up double — his only hit of the game. The stadium crowd went wild, people were jumping, screaming, and high fiving each other. I felt as if I was watching a playoff game, the atmosphere was incredible.
Throughout the night, the fans chanted “Let’s go A-Rod,” “We want A-Rod,” and “Thank you A-Rod.” Every time he stepped on the deck circle fans rose to their feet, took out their cameras and cellphones and prepared for the upcoming plate appearance. His final at bat was a ground-out to short in the bottom of the 7th inning. During the bottom of the 8th, fans got on their feet once more, chanting Rodriguez’ name. Alex was the first Yankee to come out into the field for the top of the 9th, he had his third base glove on and he jogged towards the third base bag, a place that he had manned since being traded to the team in 2004. The stadium was on its feet, people were excited, I could feel the floor shake and for a moment I thought that my section was going to collapse.
Alex only saw one batter come to the plate, as he was taken out after the first out. The fans first booed the decision, and then they began to cheer as the team came together to receive A-Rod in front of the dugout. The game ended on a 6-3 Yankees win over the Tampa Bay Rays, after the game ended, Rodriguez was interviewed by Meredith Marakovits. He thanked the fans, and he hugged his daughters. It was very clear to me that this was going to be the last time that I would ever see him play for my favorite team. His voice was cracking as he was overwhelmed with the emotions. People around me were in tears, looking and applauding in unison all under the serenading of Frank Sinatra’s "Theme From New York."
This was the end of an era for fans like me, this was the end of one of the most controversial careers in baseball history. I am happy to have been a part of this final game and be able to one day describe to my friends and family how great of a player Alex was, he was the Babe Ruth of my era. He finished his career in pinstripes with a .295 batting average, 3,115 hits, 696 career home runs, 2086 runs batted in, 2021 runs scored and a .930 on-base plus slugging percentage. I will miss listening to Jay-Z’s "Run This Town" as the announcement of “now batting, number 13, Alex Rodriguez, number 13,” and I will miss rooting for him. But like everything in life, there will always come a time in which we have to move on and accept that not even great careers last forever.