Alex Rodriguez will make his television booth debut Thursday night — not only as a TV analyst, but in any capacity.
“It will be the first night I think that I’ve ever sat in a booth, just inside of one, physically,” he said on Wednesday as he prepared to work the Yankees-Royals game alongside Kevin Burkhardt on FS1.
Not even for a cameo visit on some past telecast? “I’m not sure,” he said. “But I don’t remember, that’s for sure.”
That gap in his personal experience illustrates how far into the deep end Fox is throwing Rodriguez. But after he got strong reviews as a studio analyst the past two Octobers, then joined Fox full time this year, there is little reason to doubt he can handle it.
Two days later, he will do it again, joining Joe Buck on Fox for Angels at Mets, the start of a slate of select games he will work in the booth.
“There’s nothing like real-life situations and seeing the game from kind of a helicopter view all the way up there,” he said. “It’s going to be a different lens for me, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Rodriguez said he is both nervous and excited about Thursday but that two things will help: His close relationship with and trust in Burkhardt, and the fact the game will feature the team he played for until nine months ago.
“I’m especially lucky and grateful that I get to call a Yankee game. That’s pretty cool,” he said. “Anytime you know the personnel and know them well and you can go pretty deep on every man on the roster, coaches, manager, all of that, I think it helps you give a better analysis to the folks at home.”
Hal Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ managing general partner, said he is looking forward to Rodriguez’s booth work.
“He’s done well,” Steinbrenner said. “That may be a future for him. [Aaron] Judge may be a comedian someday. You never know what hidden talents lie within all of us.” (Judge appeared in a bit on “The Tonight Show” earlier this week.)
Rodriguez named the Yankees before the season as a potential surprise team, but even he expected this to be a transition year rather than one that produced one of the best records in baseball in mid-May.
“I would be lying to you if I said they haven’t shocked me, or surprised me a little bit,” he said, “and I think they have shocked the world so far.”
Like everyone else, Rodriguez has been wowed by the early exploits of Judge, who came up when A-Rod went out last August.
“His improvement and maturity in one year has been remarkable,” Rodriguez said. “Give him credit for being a really smart kid who went into the offseason with a plan . . . He came back almost a different guy.”
Rodriguez said he was unconcerned about Judge’s struggles late last season, then offered the sort of insight that has made him a valuable analyst.
“One of the things that people at home sometimes don’t understand is that when you’re 6-foot-7 it is so much more challenging than if you’re 6-foot tall or 6-1, 6-2, because there are so many moving parts,” he said.
“When it’s right it’s great, and when it’s bad, it’s ugly. So you always have to get the reps and be an everyday player. I’ve always said that tall men can’t really be great platoon players for the exact reason I just mentioned.”
The flip side of the Yankees’ early success is the team Rodriguez will see Saturday night.
“You can’t predict the incredible amount of injuries they’ve had to endure,” he said of the Mets. “They’re known for two things: Power pitching and having one of the greatest players in the game. They’ve both been hurt.”
Many assumed Rodriguez would seek to play again this season, but he resisted the temptation and instead has dived into things such as the Fox gig, an upcoming role on the show “Shark Tank” and other ventures.
“Look, I miss the game a great deal and that’s all I’ve ever done since I was a little boy was wear a major league uniform, and I loved wearing the pinstripes and being a Yankee and representing the city of New York,” he said.
“But I get a little taste of it by being an adviser to Hal and helping mentor our young players, and also with my job at Fox I would say I stay very connected to the game.”
Steinbrenner said he has been satisfied with Rodriguez’s work for the Yankees, who are on the hook for the $21 million he is owed in the final year of his contract.
“He’s always asking, ‘What do you need me for, what can I do?’ ” the owner said. “He has been down to Tampa several times, not including spring training. He’s been great working with the young kids.”
Rodriguez said he has been heartened by the response he has gotten from fans in New York and beyond, as well as from the wider business world.
“Besides being a full-time daddy, which was something I knew was going to take a lot of my time, I had no idea if my phone was going to ring or what opportunities I would have,” he said.
“I’ve been incredibly grateful and overwhelmed by the interest, and I’m having a great time so far.”
With David Lennon
A-Rod in the booth
Thursday night: Yankees at Royals, FS1, 8:15 p.m.
Saturday night: Angels at Mets, Ch. 5, 7:15 p.m.