Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez talks Willie Mays, his reputation, and his debut at Fenway Park

John Tomase
May 01, 2015 - 2:46 pm

It has been a long time since Alex Rodriguez first set foot in Fenway Park. Nearly 21 years, to be exact. Back then, A-Rod was a budding superstar. He made his big league debut here on July 8, 1994, a couple of weeks before his 19th birthday. He grounded out to third in his first at-bat and went 0 for 3 against Chris Nabholz. To illustrate how long ago that was, consider this: the opposing DH that night, Andre Dawson, turns 61 in July. "I was just months removed away from my high school prom," Rodriguez said on Friday afternoon before the Yankees opened a three-game series with the Red Sox. "I was so nervous. I remember facing  Roger Clemens and I was really nervous and excited." Rodriguez didn't actually face Clemens that series (he got his first hit the next day off of Sergio Valdez), but he can forgiven for misremembering. Twenty-one years is a long time. Needless to say, a lot has happened over the ensuing two decades. Rodriguez transformed from one of the brightest potential stars in the game to a perennial All-Star and MVP '€“ not to mention the highest-paid athlete in professional sports '€“ before it all came crashing down spectacularly in a scaffolding of PEDs and lawsuits and lies. Now Rodriguez is contrite, doing his best to smile for the cameras, learn his questioners' names, and rehabilitate what he can of his image. "You know I have regrets, and I'm trying to do the best I can to finish my career on a high note," Rodriguez said. He was not in the starting lineup on Friday, the Yankees resting the 39-year-old and stacking the lineup with left-handers against Justin Masterson. A-Rod needs one more homer to tie Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time list (660), but the days of that feat being celebrated are long past. "The only thing I can control is what I do from here on out and how I conduct myself both on and off the field," Rodriguez said. "I can't really decide for other people what to think." What Rodriguez can do is think back to a simpler time when he didn't come to Fenway as the enemy, but the Next Big Thing. "Fenway's one of my favorite places to play," Rodriguez said. "I don't know if you guys are old enough, some of you, but I started my career here when I was 18 years old. It was the first time I put on a big-league uniform. I had my parents here, my mother, my brother and my sister. So I have some very fond memories. Say whatever you want about Boston -- Fenway and the Boston fans have a great appreciation and love for history."