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Alex Rodriguez, on good terms with commissioner Rob Manfred, 'flattered' for event invite

New York Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez runs

New York Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez runs to the dugout before a baseball game against the Miami Marlins on Thursday, June 18, 2015. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred extended his hand. Alex Rodriguez shook it.

Yes, the same Manfred who described Rodriguez's career as "tarnished" during an ugly war of words, suspensions and lawsuits in 2013 and early 2014. But they joined forces Thursday afternoon, showing how far A-Rod's standing within baseball has come.

Rodriguez and Manfred took part in MLB's Play Ball initiative, which encourages youth participation in baseball.

"The commissioner's office asked if I would come out and obviously I was thrilled to be involved with the kids," Rodriguez said after playing catch with kids at Macombs Dam Park across from Yankee Stadium.

When Rodriguez arrived, a group of kids rushed past Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton and swarmed him for autographs.

"I think today was really a dream day for these kids and I'm glad to be a part of it," Rodriguez said. "I'm flattered that I was asked to come here today."

It was an unexpected alliance given the tumultuous history between Rodriguez and Manfred, who played a lead role in issuing Rodriguez's season-long ban for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. Manfred, MLB's chief operating officer at the time, stated that Rodriguez's use of performance-enhancing drugs was "longer and more pervasive than any other player."

Rodriguez filed a lawsuit against Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association seeking to overturn the ban, which he later dropped. After serving his suspension in 2014, Rodriguez met with Manfred in January to clear the air.

"I think Alex has tried really hard to make a smooth and successful re-entry into the game," Manfred said. "We appreciate the fact that he showed up here today."

Rodriguez recorded his 2,000th career RBI on Saturday, and Thursday donated the bat he used to do so to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He had two hits last night and walked with a chance to reach No. 3,000 in the eighth inning.

"Alex went through a very difficult period," Manfred said. "He was gone for a year. He went through that. He's back. He's a major-league player, just like every one of the other 750 of them."

After all the two had been through, Rodriguez was asked if he ever believed he'd one day participate in an event with Manfred.

"There's not much about 2015 I would have believed," he said. "It's really been an incredible season. The team is playing well. Teammates have welcomed me back. The commissioner has welcomed me back. I'm really flattered and humbled to be in this position."

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