Mark Herrmann Newsday columnist Mark Herrmann

Herrmann has covered the Mets and Yankees since 1988, and has been Newsday’s national golf writer since 2002.

BOSTON - You never know where a career can lead if it gets going with two hits at Fenway Park in a person's second big-league game. Rob Refsnyder is not thinking that far ahead. He was busy negotiating with Red Sox fans for his first home run ball and claiming the lineup card.

"All those rookie things," he said with a grin.

He also collected a ton of congratulations from his teammates, including Alex Rodriguez, who, 21 years ago this past week, played his second big-league game at Fenway and had two hits.

"Al did seek me out, gave me a hug, which means a lot, coming from one of the veterans on the team and one of the leaders," the rookie second baseman said after going 2-for-4 with a two-run homer in the ninth in an 8-6 win Sunday and making his first error -- all those rookie things.

No way will Refsnyder be another A-Rod, and in many ways, that is a good thing. Truth be told, if Refsnyder approximated any Yankee with his shot over the Green Monster and the way he charged around the bases, it was Bucky Dent. Anyway, the important things to note were that a) beginnings are really exciting, and b) Refsnyder deserves to stick around after the All-Star break.

He could be a surprising shot of adrenaline for the second half, the way Rodriguez was for the first half. In something between irony and symmetry, Joe Girardi recalled before the game what he had told A-Rod in spring training: "It was almost like being a rookie again where you have to earn your spot."

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Reflecting on it before the second win in three days, the manager added: "And that's exactly what he's done. In the Opening Day lineup, I believe, he was seventh and he kept moving up because his at-bats were so good."

In a way, Sunday was a tale of two rookies -- the one who was an 18-year-old Mariners shortstop on July 9, 1994, and who, as a 39-year-old DH, put the Yankees in front to stay with a double in the sixth inning, and the 24-year-old second baseman who singled in the seventh and homered in the ninth to extend a two-run lead to four.

Together, they might have put a stake through the heart of Boston's hopes of sneaking back in the race. The Red Sox are last, 6 1/2 games out and with significantly less momentum than they had Thursday.

They did have a two-run comeback in the ninth, fueled by the run that scored when Refsnyder failed to catch pitcher Andrew Miller's throw to second on a force attempt. "I got to the bag late, it's my fault. Andrew and I talked about it," he said.

But that's a rookie thing. Rookies are expected to follow the famous advice for golf caddies: Show up, keep up and shut up. A-Rod has basically done that all season, saying and doing all of the so-called "right things."

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On the other hand, rookies also can raise up a team with their enthusiasm and promise. "Huge," Brian McCann said. "The guy can play."

This rookie signed baseballs for five fans who had his home run ball. "They obviously didn't have to do that, but I don't think they know how much it means to me," he said.

For the record, that ball was going directly to the parents who adopted him from Seoul, South Korea, and raised him in Southern California. They were at the game Sunday.

It would be a shame if the Yankees didn't give the kid more of a look. As it is, he has no idea whether he will be in the majors or minors next week. For the next few days, he will be in New York, helping his fiancee move into her apartment. (Refsnyder is ahead of Girardi, who didn't get engaged until the day of his major-league debut.)

Otherwise, Refsnyder will try to "spend some time in the city and be young."

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All those rookie things.