The steel and concrete rose hundreds of feet in the air, and Rodriguez's eyes followed the lines to the signature frieze, to the flags above, how neatly they cut into an azure sky.
"The place is absolutely gorgeous," he said. "The dimensions are all the same. But, it's a lot. Big place. I'm speechless."
He played his first game in this Yankee Stadium on Friday night, and he seemed to like her. He ought to, of course, because she's just his type. She's exactly like him.
Following the offseason in which he admitted his career's work wasn't entirely believable, and the spring spent recovering from hip surgery, Rodriguez walked back through the door.
The people here greeted him politely. Warily, but politely.
A week on the road had him batting .143 and playing a rather sedentary third base but saying a lot of things that suggested a reasonable amount of emotional stability. While it had come at an incredible price, maybe all these revelations – fair, unfair, true, untrue, whatever – had lessened his burden and reopened his game and allowed him to, you know, just breathe a little.
"Right now I'm where I need to be," he said, "and that's focused on baseball."
So, he stood in front of them again, pants rolled to his knees, life laid out in the pages of their morning newspaper and in the display window of their local bookstore. Outside of a few stray details that so far have eluded the public forums, there can't be much more to know. He digs himself. He cheats in life and at ball. He tips better at shortstop than at Hooters. Manny takes the female fertility drug, yet he ends up with the women's breasts. You know, the usual stuff of a life spent too big.
These might never be his people, but they took another look at him, and he at them, and they resumed their association, uncomfortable as it might be.
The city is too large and too demanding for him to get his arms around.
And he – the man, the ballplayer – is too flawed for a city that likes its heroes real, and clutch, and dependable.
It is the world's first baseball market. He is the world's best baseball player.
And now what?
They become the divorced couple who can't afford to live separately. Sometimes they laugh but mostly they don't, and they get through the day and they avoid direct, meaningful contact if at all possible.
Manager Joe Girardi asserted that Yankees fans likely will "rally around him," that it is their nature because they've given other guys second chances. "Third chances, too," he said.
A-Rod, he said, "has owned up to his mistakes," which apparently will qualify him for broad absolution. The fact is, though, he'd better hit.
Rodriguez smiled at the thought of the coming reception.
"I'm not sure," he said. "I hope it's a good one."
Sure enough, they applauded his name in the lineup. And they were nice to him when he came up in the second inning and walked, and they weren't so happy when he came up an inning later with the bases loaded and struck out. By the end, he'd walked four times, so done a little to win the game, and nothing to lose it, which for the moment seems the best anyone could ask for.
"The people have been gracious," he said.
The New York Yankees scored three times in their ninth inning to beat Joe Nathan(notes) and the Minnesota Twins. It was Rodriguez's fourth walk – a full-count slider that was away – that ultimately accounted for the winning run, though it was pinch-runner Ramiro Pena(notes) who carried it home, and stomped on the plate, and brought most of the Yankees from their dugout. Rodriguez was among the first to reach Melky Cabrera(notes), whose hit won it. So he hugged Melky, and then he hugged Mark Teixeira(notes), and then he hugged the next guy, and then, because he was in one of those moods, he grabbed the trainer and gave him a little tug.
Above and around him, the stadium shook with happiness. The Yankees looked beaten all night and won. They were above .500 for the first time in 10 days. They'd played with poise, and a little fight, and a lot of bullpen, and they'd be home for another week and a half.
It worked for a night. The ballpark looked good, and the Yankees looked good in it, and A-Rod inched ahead, through another day, without another crisis.
"That was awesome," he said. "Hopefully it's a sign of good things to come."
By the time he left, the stadium was all but empty and nearly dark. He seemed content with his game. He'd liked the feel of the place.
And as he was driving off, had he looked into his rear-view mirror, past the old stadium to the new one, he might have had a few thoughts about the place he now will call home.
You know, maybe it's a little too big. Maybe it's a little too expensive. Maybe it's trying to be too perfect, and trying to be too pretty, and might never exactly reflect the people it is supposed to be serving. Maybe, ultimately, that ballpark hopes to be so many things to so many people, it never will be enough for anyone.
And maybe he would have thought that all sounded very familiar.