Welcome aboard the Alex Rodriguez love train, everyone! I am your conductor Stacey Gotsulias. I've been on this train for quite a long time and it is wonderful to see so many passengers coming aboard. Curmudgeonly baseball writers, stubborn Yankees fans and even fans of other teams have been boarding the love train these past few months, and it has been amazing. In fact, the train is so crowded that we may have to add some extra cars...
All kidding aside, the complete turnaround of A-Rod coverage has been nothing short of a miracle.
Last year, all eyes were on him when he arrived at Spring Training. People (mainly the media) were waiting for him to screw up. People (mainly the Yankees' front office) were hoping he'd screw up to the tune of being able to release him from his contract. Of course none of that happened and now we have Alex Rodriguez model citizen in Tampa in 2016.
When talking to the media yesterday, Alex made it a point to acknowledge that this year is a bit easier than 2015.
“I just feel so much better coming into this year,” Rodriguez said. “It’s certainly liberating to come into this season not carrying all this luggage with me all offseason. I’m at ease. I’m in a good place.
He also acknowledged the chatter about his possibly not making the team out of Spring Training last year:
"There was a lot of chatter about if I would make the team or not," Rodriguez said in a staged news conference inside the major league facility. "I know we were talking about [if I would make the team] last year at this time. Look, at age 40 with two hip surgeries, I'm day-to-day. My attitude is to play hard and play as long as my body lets me."
“I went back and studied the season a little bit. One of the things [was] I started my process November, December and January, workloads for me prepping for spring training,’’ Rodriguez said. “I ran out of gas in August. My energy picked up in September, I just stunk. One of the things going into 2016 is pace myself a little bit more and use spring training as a ramping [up] instead of being ready to go from Day 1.’’
He's talking about how much he loves his clubhouse. He also mentioned being more available to his teammates and acknowledging that wasn't always the case in the past.
"In many ways I was available for my teammates a lot more, whether that's in the batting cage or that's being supportive, or that's going out to lunch or calling team meetings."
And in lighter news, he's posting selfies on Twitter so now we all know that he does, in fact, control his Twitter account.
— Alex Rodriguez (@AROD) February 25, 2016
He's signing autographs and giving out high fives to young children. He's receiving the loudest ovation from fans when he emerges onto the grass at George M. Steinbrenner Field for batting practice. He's hugging rookie players and making their years just by doling out advice.
He's being more thoughtful with his answers when he's being asked questions from the usually tough New York media. And there definitely seems to be less 'foot in mouth' issues with Rodriguez lately which is refreshing since so many other athletes, in all sports, are having that problem.
He's learned a lot the past two years and it's showing.
Alex Rodriguez is the elder statesman of the New York Yankees and it took until 2016 for it to happen, but he finally gets it.