All along, all Alex Rodriguez had to do was buy Derek Jeter more dinner.
That’s oversimplifying the art of being a good teammate, but Rodriguez — who has spent most of his career attracting heavy criticism for how he conducts himself around the media and fellow players — seems to have finally figured out the basic steps to goodwill in his latest minor league comeback.
Rodriguez didn’t log a hit for a second straight game playing for the Charleston RiverDogs, but he did leave his stint with the Yankees’ Single-A club with his teammates lauding his presence. The way to a bunch of young players’ hearts? Dinner — two nights in a row.
Rodriguez paid for the team meal the two nights he played with Charleston, including steak from Outback one evening, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports. He also spent time mentoring players before a game.
“It was a great experience to talk to someone of his stature in the game, one of the all-time greats to ever play baseball,” first baseman Greg Bird said. “What he’s gone through is a great experience for us. … We’d love to have him come back.”
Perhaps the most telling part of what Bird said to Nightengale, however, was another comment about Rodriguez’s professionalism.
“He taught us the consistency of a routine, how it starts the night before a game, all of the way to what he eats for breakfast, lunch, and gets ready for a game,” Bird said.
Presumably, steak is part of any winning diet. Nightengale tweeted that Rodriguez will be “greatly missed” by his teammates after shelling out for the meals.
Rodriguez is expected back in the big leagues July 22 when the Yankees play the Rangers, Nightengale said. Rodriguez has grounded out three times and struck out once in his four at-bats so far, but he said he’s not going to focus on the results until he gets more looks at the plate.
One thing he was quickly discounting was the opposing pitcher, Mauricio Cabrera, who pumped a 101-mph fastball past Rodriguez to start an at-bat.
“The good news for me is I didn’t hit 101 before hip surgery,” Rodriguez said. “The kid was throwing gas.
“It’s a process. I’m most interested to see how my body reacts in back-to-back games. I felt good. To me, that’s the barometer I’m looking for, to come back-to-back games. I don’t mind if I save all my hits for New York.”
Maybe he’ll save some dinner money, too.