The most reviled man in baseball emerged from the dugout and took a curtain call, soaking in the applause of the 44,588 fans who came to Yankee Stadium to see history. On June 19, 2015, Alex Rodriguez did not disappoint.
Crushing a first-pitch, first-inning fastball off future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander, Rodriguez became the 29th player in history to reach 3,000 career hits, the third-ever player to clinch the feat with a home run (Wade Boggs, Derek Jeter) and the third-ever player with 600 home runs and 3,000 hits (Hank Aaron, Willie Mays).
Less than a year earlier, Rodriguez was serving an unprecedented, season-long suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis, performance-enhancing drug scandal. Due to the suspension and surgeries on both hips, Rodriguez needed nearly six years to go from 2,500 hits to 3,000, marking the longest amount of time needed by any player to join the club.
“To be quite honest, a year ago today, I didn’t know if this day would ever come,” Rodriguez said after the 7-2 win. “There were some really dark days, I got to tell you.”
Rodriguez, who was reluctantly welcomed back to the Yankees as a 39-year-old designated hitter with $60 million remaining on his contract, became a comeback player of the year candidate, finishing with his most home runs (33) in six years.
None meant as much as his shot to right-center off of Verlander. Rodriguez smiled as he rounded the bases, then received hugs and a standing ovation from teammates. Shortly after stepping into the dugout, the three-time MVP jogged back out, raising both hands to the cheering crowd.
“Well, last night I just kept staring at the ceiling about 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning,” Rodriguez said after becoming the second Yankee with 3,000 hits. “I didn’t get much sleep just thinking about the day and anticipating what today would be like. But the fans, they were incredible and just gave me a lot of confidence coming into today.
“I’m enjoying this season as much as any.”