Special Q&A with Alex Rodriguez and Dan Marino — in the April Issue of Yankees Magazine

By Alfred Santasiere III

January 11, 2016 — Earlier this winter, I traveled to South Florida for what was a once-in-a-lifetime interview. After a few years of trying, I was finally able to set up at date in which Alex Rodriguez and Dan Marino could sit down with me for an exclusive conversation.

The interview with A-Rod and Marino will be published in the New York Yankees 2016 Official Spring Training Program and in the April Issue of Yankees Magazine.

Having the opportunity to be the first person to interview A-Rod and Marino together was a thrill, and thinking about the combined milestones of these greats is still overwhelming: 687 home runs and 3,070 hits (and counting) for Rodriguez and 420 touchdowns passes and 61,361 passing yards for Marino. But what made the experience even more special for me was that Marino was my childhood hero. I revered him when I was growing up, and I still do today.

Marino was also A-Rod’s childhood hero. The Yankees star spent his childhood in Miami during Marino’s heyday with the Miami Dolphins. From the time he was very young, Rodriguez rooted for Marino and Dolphins with great passion — the type of enthusiasm that I have always been able to relate to.

And, so, it was with great excitement that I sat down with Marino and A-Rod on a balmy morning at the 50-yard line of Sun Life Stadium, the Dolphins home since 1987 (see photo below). Being on the field that Marino played on for the majority of his career combined with the happiness that both legends brought to the gridiron, made the 40-minute conversation the most enjoyable interview I’ve ever conducted.

At the beginning of our conversation, I asked Rodriguez what his favorite memories of watching Marino play at the old Orange Bowl stadium are, and he was not at a loss for words.

“One of the best memories of my childhood — or of my whole life for that matter — was the <Monday Night> game in which Dan led the Dolphins to the big win against the undefeated Chicago Bears in 1985,” A-Rod said. “Everyone thought that the Bears were going to run the table, but what you did that night was unbelievable. The other game that really stands out in my mind was when the Dolphins beat the New York Jets down here in 1985. Dan connected with Mark Duper on a bomb in the last seconds of the game, and Duper took it the rest of the way for the game-winning touchdown.”

For Marino, who played at the Orange Bowl from 1983 through 1986, the Monday Night win against Chicago also marked his favorite memory of his first professional football home.

“The crowd was never louder than it was that night, and beating that team was a great accomplishment,” Marino said. “We had several players from our undefeated 1972 team on the sidelines, and preserving their undefeated record by beating Chicago is something I will always be proud of.”

Later in the conversation, I asked the two icons to discuss the first time they met.

“I remember when Alex was back in high school,” Marino began. “He used to come to the taping of my TV show at my restaurant.”

“I’ll tell you the story in much more detail, Al,” A-Rod countered. “When Dan was playing for the Dolphins, I watched everything that had to do with the team. I would watch his show all the time, and that was one of my favorite things to do each week. I read in the local paper that they were moving his show to Dan Marino’s American Sports Bar & Grill, which was only about 2 miles from where I lived. It was perfect for me because I could just take the bus there and back, and it didn’t cost anything to get a seat in the audience to watch the show. The first time I went to the show, I was about 15 years old. I got there early and scouted things out because I really wanted to meet Dan. I went out to the parking lot, and there were about a dozen other guys out there who were all about my age. We saw Dan getting out of the car, and I rushed over to him and I said, “Hey, Dan, you’re my favorite player. I wear №13 because of you. I’m a quarterback, but I also play shortstop.” He put his arm around me, and he said, “Boy, you’re a good-looking athlete. You have a bright future, young man.” I couldn’t wait to tell my mom that story. When I got home, I said, “Mom, I’m going to make it. Dan thinks I have a future in sports.” You never forget that. When I talk to young kids today, I still visualize that moment with Dan. It’s amazing how much athletes influence kids.”

At the end of the interview, I asked A-Rod — who was an All-State quarterback when he was in high school — what it’s been like getting to know his childhood hero over the last few decades.

“Ever since I was a little boy, I put Dan on a pedestal just like most of the kids who grew up in my generation did,” Rodriguez said. “Then, I got to meet him, and I realized that he’s an even better person than I could have ever imagined. It’s great when you meet your heroes, and they are as kind as Dan. From the first time we spent time together, he treated me like a little brother, like family. It’s been a really respectful relationship. Dan really set the example for me on how to treat young players who I’m around these days.”

After the interview, our group walked from mid-field to a lounge in Sun Life Stadium. There, we were treated to a catered lunch from Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, an Italian restaurant chain that Marino is a partner in.

“We brought a lot of great food here today,” Marino said. “You’re going to love the meatballs and the pizza. It’s going to be a great lunch.”

Marino was right. Everything about our lunch — from the conversation to the food — was spectacular.

As our lunch was wrapping up, I thought of one last question for A-Rod. When he had arrived at the field, he caught a few passes from Marino. Knowing what a thrill that experience has been for me (on previous occasions and on that day), I asked A-Rod what it was like for him.

“Honestly, I had never thought about it until today,” he said. “But when [Dan] grabbed the football, I said to myself, “Oh my God. This is a childhood dream, and it’s about to happen.” That was really cool. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

— Alfred Santasiere III

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