Alex Rodriguez may be one of the most prolific power hitters in Major League Baseball history, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t get nervous when he was on the field. Now that we are in the spring and the baseball season should be underway, several MLB players past and present recently shared their best Opening Day memories.
Rodriguez was one of those players, and the memory he shared showed that even he is human and wasn’t always a confident superstar making $25 million a year playing for one of the most storied franchises in all of sports. Before he was a veteran playing for the Yankees, A-Rod was a young ballplayer on the Mariners.
Alex Rodriguez’s life before MLB
Rodriguez was born in Manhattan, but grew up in the Dominican Republic and Miami. He played both shortstop and quarterback in high school. He hit .419 in his junior year, when his school won the high school baseball national championship.
Rodriguez did even better as a senior, hitting .505 with nine home runs on the way to being named Gatorade’s national baseball student-athlete of the year. Rodriguez was recruited by the University of Miami’s baseball and football teams, and he signed a letter of intent to attend the school, but he ultimately decided to forego college and enter the MLB draft instead. The Mariners selected him first overall in the 1993 draft.
Alex Rodriguez’s MLB career
Rodriguez made his major league debut in July 1994 as an 18-year-old, and he would go on to play 22 seasons for the Mariners, Rangers, and Yankees. He was a 14-time All-Star, was a Silver Slugger 10 times, and won three American League MVP awards.
Rodriguez ended his prolific career with a .295 average, 696 home runs, and 2,086 RBI in 2,784 games. He ended his career with a 117.5 WAR. His teams made the postseason 12 times, and he was a member of the Yankees team that won the World Series in 2009.
He is third-all time in RBI and fourth on the career home runs list. A-Rod’s 2,021 runs scored are the eighth-most in MLB history, and his WAR ranks 16th on the all-time list. Rodriguez parlayed that on-field success into career earnings estimated to be more than $450 million — which doesn’t take into account his endorsement money or the money he has made in his many entrepreneurial endeavors through the years.
A nervous Opening Day memory
In a story for Yahoo! Sports, Alex Rodriguez recalls March 31, 1996 — his first Opening Day in the majors. The Mariners were playing in front of 57,000 people at the Kingdome. Rodriguez was 20 years old with just 65 major league games on his resume, with a .224 average in those contests.
When he stepped up to the plate, he remembers thinking that it seemed like he had been playing on a high school field in the Miami suburbs in front of about 200 people. Now, he was in the majors, teammates with Edgar Martinez and Ken Griffey Jr., who he thought of as “legends,” with Griffey being the “Michael Jordan of baseball,” according to Rodriguez.
A-Rod says he “felt fortunate and grateful and nervous.” He was so nervous, in fact, that his knees were shaking. He was wondering what he was doing there in the stadium, “among great players and in front of all those people.” Rodriguez was batting ninth in the order that day, hoping not to “foul it up for everyone else, and also hoping no one could see [his] knees.”
A-Rod ended up going 1-for-6 on that Opening Day with an RBI and a strikeout; luckily that hit was a walk-off single in the 12th inning.