Fans Jockey as Rodriguez Nears 600
New York Times
July 20, 2010
Kevin Long, the Yankeesâ€™ hitting coach, did not know how to describe what he saw, but he said he sensed a special focus lately in Alex Rodriguez. His 600th home run could be here sooner rather than later.
â€œIâ€™ve been around him long enough to know that when he gets that feel, he knows,â€ Long said. â€œYou can see it in his eyes.â€
When Rodriguez hit No. 598 on Sunday, he set the table for the six-game homestand, which started Tuesday against the Los Angeles Angels, as the potential stretch in which he will hit his 600th home run.
Now that Rodriguez is so close, there is a realistic possibility that any game could be the one in which he becomes the seventh major leaguer to reach 600 homers. And the price of tickets at Yankee Stadium has escalated in the areas where Rodriguez most often homers.
â€œIâ€™m looking at 600 as a springboard to help my team keep winning,â€ Rodriguez said. â€œI really havenâ€™t thought about it too much.â€
In 2007, Rodriguez had a difficult time hitting No. 500. After he hit his 499th homer, Rodriguez went 29 at-bats before he hit his next one, a stretch that he acknowledged played with his emotions. Rodriguez has not been having a big home run year this season. He did not homer in Tuesdayâ€™s 10-2 loss and has 15 home runs, which was tied for 18th in the American League through Monday. He has averaged 41 homers a season since 1996.
â€œMy concern is going from 599 to 600, that one milestone,â€ Manager Joe Girardi said. â€œSo hopefully it gets out of the way quickly and it doesnâ€™t become a long, drawn-out pursuit.â€
But Long said Rodriguez had not been pressing lately. â€œHe hasnâ€™t had the spurts of home runs yet,â€ Long said. â€œSo maybe it doesnâ€™t become an issue. I think heâ€™s going to get to 600 quicker than people think.â€
The best places to try to catch No. 600 are in the left-field stands, in Sections 136 and 135.
Fans usually pay $45 for those tickets, but they were reselling online for an average of $131 for the games against the Angels on Wednesday and Kansas City on Thursday, said Christian Anderson, a spokesman for FanSnap.com, which tracks prices on four dozen online ticket resellers.
Many fans seated there Tuesday bought their tickets not knowing Rodriguez would be on the verge of a milestone. Others said they did not know they were in prime real estate for a souvenir â€” and the potential payday that could accompany the home run ball.
â€œNow that I know, Iâ€™m a little more interested, thatâ€™s for sure,â€ said Chris Webster, 51, of Riverside, Conn., who was seated in nearby Section 134.
In Rodriguezâ€™s first at-bat, he drove a 2-2 breaking ball into right field for a double. Fans seated in left field applauded even though it was not a home run. Rodriguez grounded out in his second at-bat, flied out his third time up, then singled to center in his last at-bat.
Kevin Mackay, 31, of Manhattan, sat in Section 135 with his older brother, Scott. The brothers traveled to watch Mark McGwire while he pursued the single-season home run record in 1998. They also bought tickets around Roger Clemensâ€™s 300th victory in hopes of witnessing it.
But to Kevin Mackay, something was lost in Rodriguezâ€™s chase when he admitted in 2009 to using steroids while playing for the Texas Rangers. Mackay said he was aware that Rodriguez was on the cusp of history, but he was not especially excited.
â€œI know about 600,â€ he said, â€œbut Iâ€™m more of a Jeter guy.â€