Alex Rodriguez Comments on PED Suspension, Being a Yankee and More

Mike Norris@@MikeNorrisBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 22, 2016

Sep 26, 2015; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez (13) in the dugout before a game against the Chicago White Sox at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez has been through some dark times during his 21-year MLB playing career.

For starters, playing for a club like the Yankees can bring a lot of pressure.

"I think it always starts on the field, especially when you're a New York Yankee," Rodriguez said, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today. "You expect to go to the World Series every year. But in a world where we get judged by wins and losses, home runs and RBI, I started thinking about other things."

He's dealt with injuries and fan disdain, but a yearlong suspension during the 2014 season resulting from the Biogenesis scandal was his lowest point. However, after resurrecting his career with 33 home runs and 86 RBI in 2015, Rodriguez said he is in a great place now, per Nightengale:

There were a lot of doubts, a lot of sleepless nights. But I think the suspension in many ways was a catalyst for me. It really helped me.

In order for me to move things forward and to really understand myself, I was going to have to have a paradigm shift.

It's propelled me to be in a much better place.

That's a major revelation for a player who at 40 years old is defying the odds and still producing in a game meant for the young and spry. The steroid scandal would have been the end for a lot of players. However, Rodriguez has always been stubborn, and he fought through it, according to friend and mentor Jim Bernhardt, per Nightengale:

He has grown up and has started to accept who he is. The difference in him now is night and day. To watch his progress is fascinating.

When he first came back, he told me, "Mr. Bernhardt, I made a lot of mistakes. I'm going to surround myself with better people. I want to meet good people." That's one of the things that got him into a lot of trouble. He was hanging with the wrong people.

You look at him now, and he not only has lived through it, but, really, he has become a true man. He took a few different side roads to get here, but now he's heading down the right path.

While Major League Baseball handed out the yearlong suspension, and Rodriguez sued MLB and the MLBPA, he also was at odds with the Yankees, with whom he had signed a 10-year, $295 million contract in 2008. Initially refusing to pay Rodriguez's home run bonus, New York barely acted like he existed outside of putting him in the lineup.

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Now, it's scheduled Alex Rodriguez Bat Day for May 14 and has plans to celebrate if he hits 27 home runs and ties Babe Ruth for third on the all-time list with 714, per Nightengale.

Rodriguez seems like he's at peace for the first time since the Seattle Mariners took him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1993 draft, per Nightengale:

One of the things I focused on a lot serving my suspension was the impact my actions had on other people. Just the responsibilities for my actions. I spent a lot of time thinking about that.

I'm a better teammate now, a better father, a better friend, a better partner in business. Really, everything.

I'm in a good place now. A great place, really. I never knew it was possible for me to feel like this.

It seems as though he's happy being around a baseball diamond, even if it's at the home of the Miami Hurricanes and not Yankee Stadium:

While focused on playing, Rodriguez is also putting his talents and fame to good use. After New York was knocked out of the playoffs last season, he served as a commentator with Fox Sports and received rave reviews from executive producer John Entz, per Nightengale:

I've never seen anybody hit the ground running like Alex did. From Day 1 on the air, it was hard not to stop what you were doing to hear what Alex had to say.

I think people had this image of Alex. But once you got to know him and people saw his personality, how humble he was and how much passion he had for the game, they really embraced him. His ceiling now is through the roof.

Rodriguez also said he wants to be more involved in helping the Hispanic community around the country, especially focusing on financial literacy, per Nightengale.

It's quite a turnaround for a player many thought would never step foot on an MLB field again after his 2014 suspension, and it was easy to root against the player who seemingly had it all and threw it away with unethical decisions.

He has paid his dues and is looking to give back to the game, and everyone else around him, as much as he can, per Nightengale.

"I know I'm only going to be a player for a short time longer, but I know I can make a difference off the field forever," he said.