Analyzing A-Rod Through his Children's Book

a-rod.jpgArod explores his personal demons in a children's book.

By Harry Bruinius

It was a family affair, kids in dark navy T's with "13's" emblazoned in white, dads in unbuttoned gray jerseys, covering wife-beaters and gold chains, and moms in the proud Yankee pinstripes, "Rodriguez" arched on their backs.

They were in a line down 58th St. with about 1,000 others, each waiting to meet A-Rod and have him sign his new children's book, Out of the Ballpark, a quick-and-simple morality tale about failure, determination, and ultimate triumph. The bright, round and sinewy illustrations by Frank Morrison, who also illustrated Queen Latifah's "Queen of the Scene," feature little Alex himself, playing second base for the Caribes, and wrestling with the kind of inner demons that bring on a kid's—and a Major Leaguer's—self-doubt.

"I would say this book is about 90 percent real," said A-Rod at the media event at FAO Schwarz, which included a clamor of paparazzi that was nothing short of Parisian. "We made it a little interesting, like, I hit a grand slam, and all these fun things that I kind of made up. But for the most part, it's real."

The world-famous toy store didn't have any blond Halloween masks on display, and his wife Cynthia left her gothic-lettered "Fuck You!" tank top at home. After A-Rod explained the origin of the book, she read it to 14 nine-year-olds, each dressed in white Police Athletic League t-shirts, and sitting on the floor as the paparazzi¹s cameras popped furiously.

The event comes during a remarkably eventful year for Rodriguez. A-Rod is having not simply an MVP year, but with his near-weekly late-inning heroics, he's putting behind last year's humiliating blunders, including a playoff slump that left him batting 8th in the final game of the season. After being reviled most all last year, fans are now adoring him during a season in which he can opt out of his historic $252 million contract, as most expect him to, and command no less than $30 million a year for his foreseeable athletic future.

And yet, the inner demons still seem to trouble the hazel-eyed Yankee third baseman. Most agree A-rod, who has revealed the help he's received from therapy in the past, is not only one of most talented baseball players of his generation, but perhaps the best ever to put on a uniform. And, at 34, he is on pace to hit 800 or more homeruns in his career and shatter Barry Bonds' juiced-up record, whatever it ends up to be.

Still, A-Rod often seems like a man uncomfortable in his own tights, hardly commanding the alpha-male respect of other superstars.

How else to explain his bush-league "Hah!" during an infield pop-up, confusing a Toronto rookie 3rd baseman into an error, or his swat at the glove of Bronson Arroyo during the 2004 ALCS? With other similar plays, somehow it feels as though he's a player not quite confident in his own skills, feeling a need to resort to means meant to cause an opponent's bumbling and failure. Lithe, clean-cut, and free of an eyebrow-raising body of Adonis, it's A-Rod's play that sometimes seems insecure, even dishonest.

As his wife Cynthia read the story to the boys and girls seated in front of them, she told a tale the boy, Alex who flubbed a grounder during a little league semi-final: "Baseball. Alex lived for it. And it didn't get much better than this: His mom, brother, and sister were together in the stands for the first time all season. Today was the playoffs. Alex wanted to make them proud. He really wanted to win his first championship. Crack! The batter hit a ground ball towards second base. Here it comes!" Alex told himself. This will be an easy out. he crouched to field the ball, just like he'd done a thousand time before, and the ball bounced between his legs."

A few of the camera-propped kid said, "Aw!" But the story unfolds. Little Alex is crestfallen, beats himself up, but begins to practice even harder. He also makes sure to study hard for a test. By the end of the book, he aces the math test, overcomes his self-doubts, and hits a grand slam to win his first championship.

The grand slam, as A-Rod said, was made up. He hasn't hit one yet in the big league playoffs for the Yankees, and he hasn't won a championship, either. Next year, it is possible he will play in different uniform.

Yankee fans, of course, hope the ending to this story won't be written in the tabloids.

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