The wait for 600 is finally over.
On Alex Rodriguez’s first swing of the afternoon, he launched his long-anticipated milestone home run onto the netting above Monument Park yesterday, making him the seventh member of the 600 club.
Rodriguez was rounding first base as the ball landed and slowly raised his arms to his sides with palms up, almost as if saying, “Finally.” It was a far more subdued reaction than when he lifted his arms after hitting No. 500 three years ago to the day.
Rodriguez described his emotions yesterday as “50-50” between euphoria and relief. He had been sitting on 599 since July 22 and admittedly was pressing, going hitless in his previous 17 at-bats.
Rodriguez, who turned 35 July 27, is the youngest player to hit 600. Babe Ruth did it when he was 36 years, 196 days old. The others are Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr. and Sammy Sosa.
“Amazing accomplishment,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I’m sure he’s happy he’s through it.”
There were two outs in the first inning and Derek Jeter was on first base when Rodriguez came to bat. After Marcum missed the strike zone with two fastballs, he threw another, but it caught too much of the plate and A-Rod crushed it.
A 23-year-old security guard named Frankie Babilonia retrieved the ball and gave it to the Yankees without asking for anything in exchange. After the game, Rodriguez presented Babilonia with a signed bat and they posed together, Babilonia holding the bat and A-Rod the ball.
“We were certainly lucky to hit it to centerfield and one of our guys got it,” Rodriguez said.
Upon reaching home plate, he hugged Jeter. Rodriguez said that after Tuesday’s game Jeter told him about how he felt chasing Lou Gehrig’s all-time Yankees hits record. He said Jeter advised to just “try to get a base hit, maybe even bunt.”
“So when I got to home plate,’’ Rodriguez said, “he had a big smile and said, ‘There goes my bunting tip.’ ”
While Rodriguez received an extended standing ovation, the rest of the Yankees piled out of the dugout to offer congratulations. When everything settled down, Rodriguez walked several steps back onto the field for a curtain call, turning a few times to wave to each side of the field.
“I felt bad for them,” Rodriguez said of the fans. “I had them waiting for a long, long time.”
Rodriguez admitted last year to taking performance-enhancing drugs earlier in his career, which is sure to sully this accomplishment for some fans. He says he’s a changed man.
“I said at that press conference there are certain things I would love to go back and change, but the truth of the matter none of us can go back and change time,” he said.
Using a golf analogy, he added, “But I knew that with the green I had in front of me I would have an opportunity to rewrite some of the chapters in my life and my career and do things right.”