Personal Information on Alex
He has everything a man should have: A job. A house. A dog. A
swimming pool and pool table. Four remote controls' worth of
electronics. A pager so you can get in touch with him. A cell phone
so he can get in touch with you. A strong work ethic. Humility.
A sense that you never forget where you come from. Generosity.
Curiosity. An appreciation for fine garments, good food and music
with a mighty beat. An interest in art, books, vocabulary and table
etiquette. An ability to speak a foreign language, use chopsticks and
drive a powerful car the way Nate McMillan drives the court: well but
Then there's a body, as lovely as the glow of Mount Rainier during a
summer sunset. I tell you this about the body because in Seattle, we
love Seattle Mariner Alex Rodriguez - A-Rod, The Rod, Hot Rod, The
Youngster, Junior's Junior, Young Buck - for what his body does. The
country's No. 1 high-school player became, at 17, the Mariners' No. 1
draft pick; at 18, the youngest player to start in the majors in a
decade; at 20, the youngest shortstop ever to make the All Star team;
at 21, third youngest batting champ in American League history; one
vote short of MVP. Last fall, a small group of fans sat in the
Kingdome's 300 level. They were high enough to be roughly eye-level
with the Diamond Vision screen, which made them brave souls. They
wore bobby socks, hemp macrame bracelets and teeth retainers and had
the ability to shriek, you might have thought, as only Mariah Carey
could. They were 13 and 14.
"I think Alex is the cuuuuuutest."
"It's not like omigod-love. It's like a crush. It's like he's my
dream guy. He is the HOTTEST GUY IN THE WORLD!"
"He's so sweet because in all the interviews and everything, he loves
his mom. I'd marry him if he asked."
People like Alex Rodriguez because he's (1) a great baseball player;
(2) young; (3) cute and (4) nice. The love affair is not confined to
-A mom: He's fresh, honest, sincere. He's better than that
green-haired Rodman guy on that basketball team. Would you want your
daughter to go out with him?
-A woman on the Seattle City Council: He's so cute!
-A guy who runs a sandwich shop: My wife loves him. My kids love him.
Everybody I know loves him.
-A newspaper editor (guy): He's beautiful. I love the guy.
-A boy, age 10: On TV, he talks all nice. He's the coolest player on
-A girl, about the same age: He comes over and signs autographs and
most of the players don't. He waves.
These are the sorts of things I'm thinking when I'm waiting to meet
Alex Rodriguez in a room across from the players' lockers one night.
The game (a Mariner win) is over. He's showered, changed. He walks in
with a plate of food. He stands 6-foot-3, weighs 200 pounds, has
smooth palms and feet that fit size 12 Nike AirMax shoes. His muscles
are 21 years old, strong and explosive, and are surrounded by just 8
percent body fat. Says one of his trainers: A human specimen.
He has the tiniest mole on his neck and a skinny scar on the inside
of his left thigh that his dog gave him. He likes it, the scar,
because it reminds him of the dog. His ears stick out some. His eyes
are green; his eyelashes long. The hair on his face grows at a
snail's pace. The hair on his head looks like a ewe's and it is,
according to the guy who cuts it, excellent. "Hi, I'm Alex." He
offers a handshake.
He's a kid, I think. He's not sexy in that come take me oh my MY!
sort of way but he's pretty to look at and the more you look at him,
the more you like looking at him. Mostly, though, as he starts
answering questions, in a soft-spoken way, all along eating his food
and making sure he looks you in the eye when he speaks, he comes
across as huggable, like a thick cotton bathrobe just out of the
dryer. It's been Wisked and Bounced. It smells great; sparkles; looks
fluffy. I am so very sweet and nice, it says.
In the infield. Down goes the mitt. The ball is swooped and thrown
with the grace of an Alvin Ailey dancer. At bat and on the base paths
he is sleek, elegant. Those who live and breathe baseball, the sort
that take scorecards to games and keep seasons' worth in folders,
knew about Alex Rodriguez long before he had a nickname. He was an
18-year-old up-and-comer, bouncing between the big leagues and the
minors. Then after Seattle lost to Cleveland and was eliminated from
the 1995 playoffs, Joey Cora, the veteran, sat in the dugout and
sobbed into his palms. Alex, the rookie, draped an arm and comforted
him. How sweet, we all thought.
The 1996 season arrived. Alex did extraordinary things; the I Heart
Alex posters sprouted up in the stands; the Alex baseball cards were
gobbled up. The city fell head over heels. In nonbaseball terms, what
Alex accomplished last year is the equivalent of, say, Charlie Chong,
after one year on the Seattle City Council, being nominated as a
presidential candidate by the national Democratic Party. And winning.
Last year, twice as many men as women attended Mariner games,
according to a KIRO radio survey. According to the only Mariner on
the team who gets more fan mail than Alex - Ken Griffey Jr. - the
women who came out last year came out to see Rodriguez. Women used to
swoon over Edgar, he says, but they all know he's married. Batting
practice. Griffey stands near home plate, doing the other thing he is
so talented at doing: talking. "You see," Griffey expounds, "the
FEMALE attendance has de-fin-it-ely gone up. "You see. Females 15 and
over sit on that side."
He points his hands toward Alex's shortstop position.
"Females 15 and under," he says, still pointing in the same
direction, "sit on that side. "You see Sojo and Cora?" Griffey eyes
two other Mariners fielding balls near Alex. "Why do you think
they're out there? For the stragglers." Being a professional athlete
is exhausting. There are the well-reported physical demands. There
are certain lifestyle responsibilities that must be met, too. If you
are a professional male athlete of the caliber featured in Spike
Lee-directed TV commercials, or nominated to run for president, there
are rules that must be followed:
Rule No. 1: Own an A-Type Car and a B-Type Car.
A-Type Cars are the flashy, very expensive sports cars that are all
boy and pure toy. B-Type Cars are the big, brawny four-wheel-drive
vehicles that get the athlete from the suburb to Rule No. 3-type
activity (see below). Both cars must be impeccably clean, have tinted
windows and a stereo system to rival the Iguana Cantina on a Friday
night. Alex drives a red Range Rover that has a stuffed teddy bear
dressed in a green knit sweater on the dashboard. He also drives a
black Mercedes Benz SC 500, with black leather interior and a CD
player that, on occasion, has featured Keith Sweat and Ghost Town
Rule No. 2: Live in a nice big house.
Miami is as flashy as Seattle is dreary. About the only layers to be
seen in Miami during the winter are the tummies of women that bloop
up and over their little shorts whenever they sit down. The sun makes
the car tops come off, the silver bracelets get smacked onto triceps
and the preference, it seems, for many houses to be painted the shade
of a lemon ice. Alex lives in Kendall, a Miami suburb, a nicer
Federal Way. He lives in a subdivision with a security guard, an
electric gate and several speed bumps. The houses are one-story with
many bedrooms, frosted windows and big, leafy plants. Alex's house is
not the fanciest and not the biggest he could have afforded. He lives
here because it is close to his mom, central and well-secured. Since
moving in, Alex has painted, planted and cleaned up his
3,330-square-foot, four-bedroom house, knocking down walls and
putting up arches and columns. "I wanted to make it look big," he
says. You can hear it in his voice: Alex is proud. The refrigerator
and stove are black. The kitchen counters, with the jars of vitamins,
protein powder and red-and-white mints, are black. Black, too, is the
big leather couch arranged in a semicircle and the high-backed chairs
that surround a glass octagonal dining table. There is a red pool
table, a cheery coffee table and a whimsical Kandinsky-like painting
in a gold frame. The bedroom is mostly taupe with a white carpet. On
one living-room wall there will eventually be a floor-to-ceiling home
entertainment system. Right now, there's a 40-inch TV and a stereo
system with surge protector, line conditioner, high-definition
speaker selection system. Few knickknacks: a Michael Jordan video, a
Magic Johnson basketball, a Steve Young football. Sixteen-foot
ceilings. Lots of marble. The house feels like a showroom. Everything
in its place.
Rule No. 3: Play golf.
It must be a combination of the sun, the pretty arc a nicely hit golf
ball makes, an escape from the media, and those battery-operated
carts. When it's off-season, pro ballplayers head out to the green.
This winter, one guy Alex hung out with was Jose Canseco, formerly of
the Oakland Athletics, then the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox, now
back with the A's. They're close, so close Canseco gave Alex his
beloved German shepherd, Ripper. So trusted is Canseco that if Alex
had to go home to entertain some reporter, Canseco could head off to
a restaurant and do a most intimate thing: order him sushi. Canseco's
roots are Cuban, Alex's Dominican, and the dark hair and skin, gold
chain around the neck, are about the only things they have in common
when they play. Canseco plays golf like a Rottweiler in studded
collar thrashing a tennis ball. "Hit it like a MAN!" Canseco roars,
scolding himself and the ball that would not obey. Alex is golden
retriever nuzzling a duckling. A swing. A lousy shot. Alex sighs big.
Shoulders droop. Hands hold waist. Damn, he muffles. I suck. I'd give
anything for a great shot.
Rule No. 4: Have physically attractive female companion.
Alex has seriously dated two girls, each for three years. The first
ended when she went off to college and he went off to play ball. The
second he prefers not to talk about. The only girl's picture he
carries in his wallet, his older sister Susy says, is a photo of his
5-year-old niece Michelle. He was in the sixth grade when he first
went out on a date. She was Miriam, a cute brunette. He was skinny.
He wrote her a note in class and asked her out to a movie. They held
hands. They were a couple for two days and then she dumped him. He
has met Veronica Webb, and gotten her autograph. He has met Josie
Bissett and has a photo. Cindy Crawford is very pretty, he thinks. A
dream date. "Looks aren't the No. 1 thing. They have to have class,
intelligence, then looks." He would not kiss on the first date. "Not
Rule No. 5: Have your own shoe. .
Alex gets his - courtesy of Nike - in 1998. ATHLETES are pretty good
at sticking to these five rules. Then there's Alex. He's formulated
two more. Look nice. The one thing Alex loves, probably even more
than sushi (an affinity so great that he has been known to get Nikko
in Seattle to open after closing) is clothes. "Ever since I was a
kid, like from the age of 10, I wanted to look sharp." Susy used to
buy men's polo shirts, the kind with the alligator on them. Alex
nagged her about them, rummaging through her closet, saying: You
don't wear this anymore, do you? C'mon Susy. When you grow out of
this, can I have it?.
He shared a bedroom with his older brother, Joe, whose closet held
nice slacks that Alex would steal. Alex doesn't ball clothes up and
throw them in the corner. They are always dry-cleaned and steamed.
Alex likes clothes so much, when he shops, he pets them. If you look
like Alex, you could wear a Vancouver Grizzlies jersey (turqoise,
brown, red) and still look good. If you are Alex, you wear two-piece,
two-button, Giorgio Armani suits (Black label), custom-made white
Dion Scott shirts (real long in the sleeves), Ferragamo shoes, Armani
socks; dark wool, corduroy, Hugo Boss nylon for the rain; white Polo
and Titleist for golf; a lot of new Nike to sweat. The key to
dressing, says Alex, is to be subtle. "You don't want anything to pop
out." The dark suits and sports jackets hang next to the $2,100
tuxedo in one of two long, skinny closets, beside the hot-pink track
shoes. The motorized tie rack holds Versace silk designs that hardly
yelp. The clothes come from Bergdorf Goodman in Manhattan. Cal Ripken
Jr., the guy Alex really looks up to, buys his suits there from a man
named Adam Modlin. Alex found out, found Modlin and now shops there,
too. Most athletes, says Modlin, like loud colors and designs (purple
and red; shoulder pads). Alex wants to portray elegance and style.
"He doesn't dress nicely," Modlin says. "He's a well-dressed
gentleman." Be nice.
The children, in "normal talking voices," recite the Pledge of
Allegiance and in a normal talking voice, the Seattle school
principal tells them television crews are here, and he's around the
corner and this is one exciting day! They give a big Bailey Gatzert
yell. The Mariner Moose slides in on his belly. They roar. Alex
marches in, smiling, clapping his hands. More roars. The TV cameramen
with their bulky equipment, the newspaper photographers crouching
like toddlers in a sandbox, the teachers in chairs with their pocket
cameras - everybody focuses and shoots.
"Let's have a show of hands, how many of you like to read?" he says.
Four hundred little arms shoot up.
"It's important to read as much as you can."
All it takes is a visit, a little bit of inspiration, Alex thinks, to
get kids excited about schoolwork, to think about their futures, to
work hard. He's not always sure how they're going to react. He gets
nervous. Then he looks them in the eye and he realizes how much it
means to them and he gets kind of sentimental because it reminds him
of when he was that age. Reading, math, physical fitness, good
citizenship, he tells them, really matter.
"Math is very important, to keep up with Ken Griffey's batting
average." The heads nod.
What were your favorite subjects in school?
"Civics and math."
How much money do you make?
"I signed a $10 million contract last year."
Do you feel sad when you miss a ball?
"Sometimes I feel like crying."
When did you hit your first home run? How tall are you? Have you ever
been to the White House? In schools, he is a great shusher, great,
too, at Donahueing the crowd, careful not to step on any feet,
reaching the mike out to a little person in a row. He makes the woman
who frosted 50 vanilla cupcakes to look like baseballs think: Yes, he
is worth it.
"It's really an honor for me to come here today and spend some time
with you," he says.
"He's a cutie," murmurs a teacher. Another teacher high-fives Alex as
he walks by. She kisses her palm and is nudged and winked by the lady
"How about that nice young man there? What's your question?" Alex
The boy in gray sweat shirt and sweat pants asks: Can I hug you?
Miami's Hank Kline Boys & Girls Club has a flamingo-pink entrance and
a clientele of youngsters named Herrera, Mendez, Gomez, Romero and De
La Rosa. This is a modest place. It knows children and knows how to
take care of them, right down to the Barbie band-aids for scraped
knees. Eddy "Gallo" Rodriguez, a bushy-eyebrowed, gold-earringed,
no-nonsense (43, no relation to Alex), former minor-leaguer runs the
club's baseball program. All the best players have played here, Gallo
says. Fernandez. Canseco. Palmeiro. And Alex.
Alex, the youngest of three children, was born in New York. He lived
in the Dominican Republic for several years, then moved to Miami. His
father left the family when Alex was in the fifth grade. His mother,
Lourdes Navarro, worked two jobs to send Alex to private school. He
was scrawny with big hands and feet and really quiet when he first
started coming to the Boys & Girls Club. He came here every day for
years, and even though he moved on to high school, then to Seattle
and a career, he always remembered this place and the man who helps
It is here that Alex, during the winter, comes and shoots free throws
and drops off workout gear and changes into a suit and heads off to
some function, sometimes taking Gallo along. It is here in a room
behind the office where he and Gallo have had long chats. About life.
These are the sorts of things Gallo tells Alex: It's hard to be on
top, easy to come down. You could go out on the field one day and
someone could hit a ball and you could break your leg. Phwtt. End of
"Play baseball. Work hard. Be the best but be a good human being.
Don't ever forget where you came from." Behind the Hank Kline Boys &
Girls Club, there sits the Alex Rodriguez Baseball Field, named in
honor of the man who had it built. No other player has ever come back
to this place and given like Alex has, Gallo said. Alex just did it.
Whatever you need, he said. At a groundbreaking ceremony that
attracted hundreds on a Friday night, mothers in the crowd saluted
Alex's mother. You've done good, they told the woman with the gold
No. 3 necklace. God bless you and your son.
If life hadn't turned out the way it has, Alex Rodriguez might have
been a University of Miami senior this year majoring in
communications. He misses the idea of college. On road trips last
season, he roamed universities, meandering into bookstores. His
airplane reading this winter included Gabriel Garcia Marquez's
"One Hundred Years of Solitude" and Machiavelli's "The Prince," two
books a Stanford friend recommended he read.
It is too early to tell how fame will change Alex and whether he will
turn into a prickly, obnoxious man. Those whose acquaintance goes way
back say if anyone can be a superstar and a great guy, it'll be him.
Alex's role model is Ripken and that superstar/great guy has already
taken to Alex.
As a kid, his sister says, Alex was a brat, headstrong then,
motivated now. Once Alex determines something is worth having, he
will work toward it without flinching. There may be others with more
talent, he says, but no one works harder. He seeks advice. He learns
new words - epitome, tepid - and uses them so his vocabulary will
improve. He knows being late is his worst habit, so he's trying to
fix it. And with the many public engagements that are now part of his
life, he figured he should know certain things. This winter, Alex
asked his sister to go over table manners with him. Salad fork vs.
dinner fork. How to sit. Where to place your hands. Susy, remind me,
he said. I think I need to learn.
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