600!

August 6, 2010 — Alex Rodriguez’ 600th home run landed
in the same place that he will end up someday — Yankee Stadium’s Monument
Park.


The historic drive came in the first
inning of the Yankees’ 5-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on August 4 — three
years to the day after Rodriguez hit his 500th career home run. With Derek
Jeter on first base, A-Rod deposited Shaun Marcum’s 2-0 fastball — which came
in at 85 miles an hour — into a net that sits a few feet above the monuments.

“You’ve got to be a big man to hit a
home run in centerfield in this ballpark,” Nick Swisher said. “It was an honor
for all of us to be here to witness that.”

Frankie Babilonia, a Yankee Stadium security
guard who was filling in for a co-worker when Rodriguez gave the Yankees’ a 2-0
lead with the long-ball, retrieved the baseball.

“It was a lifetime experience, and
I’ll never forget it,” Babilonia said. “My job was to retrieve the ball and return
it to my supervisors, and that’s what I did.”

After the game, Yankees officials
presented the baseball to A-Rod, who in turn gave Babilonia a signed bat.

“I feel blessed that Frankie was so
generous,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez became the seventh player
in major league history to reach the 600 home run plateau, and the youngest to
do so. At 35 years and 8 days old, A-Rod edged out Babe Ruth by 188 days.

“It’s hard to believe,” Jeter said.
“He’s only 35. He got to 600 pretty quickly, so I’m sure this won’t be the last
milestone. There’s a lot of good things left for him.”

“When you reach that plateau, no
matter when it happens, it’s a tremendous accomplishment,” said Hank Aaron, who
hit 755 career home runs. “It means an awful lot.”

While Rodriguez’ overall journey to
600 came rapidly, the last hurdle didn’t come easily.

Twelve games and 46 at-bats passed
between A-Rod’s 599th home run and his 600th. During that time, specially
marked baseballs were put into play when A-Rod stepped to the plate.

“There’s no question that I was
pressing,” Rodriguez said. “I wanted to get it out of the way and get back
to playing good team baseball.”

On an 89-degree afternoon in the
South Bronx, A-Rod got the monkey off his back.

“It’s definitely a special number,”
Rodriguez said as he peered at the home run ball. “I’m proud of it, and I will
treasure it for a long, long time.”

–Alfred Santasiere III

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