Any beat writer will tell you that covering a professional sports team is a mixed bag. There are some athletes you have great relationships with, and there are some you don’t. There are some athletes you love to interview and speak with, and there are others you want to avoid.
Alex Rodriguez, perhaps not surprisingly, was a bit of an enigma to many reporters.
“He was always hard to get into personal chit-chat conversations,” WFAN Yankees reporter Sweeny Murti said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “Most other players you could do that with. Even some of the stars if you’ve been around them long enough, you could have those conversations. I covered Derek Jeter for 14 years and Mariano Rivers for 13. I was able to have those conversations with them. Alex was a little bit tougher. He knew things about you, but I guess they were just awkward conversations sometimes. He would make mention of the fact that he saw me on MLB Network and he liked watching that show. Or he would make mention (of) when he saw something from Penn State, (which is where I went to college). He asked everybody where they went to college, and he always knew that.”
He longer has to. Rodriguez, 41, has announced his retirement from baseball. The 14-time All-Star and three-time MVP will play his final game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on Friday, after which he will become a special advisor to the team.
Rodriguez, perhaps the greatest player of his generation, has struggled mightily this season, hitting .204 with nine homers, 29 RBIs and a .252 OBP in 62 games.
In some ways, Murti will miss Rodriguez. In other ways, he’s not sure what to make of the man he’s covered for 13 years.
“I had probably some of the greatest baseball conversations – talking about the game – that I had with anybody with Alex Rodriguez,” Murti said. “You get lost in a baseball conversation at his locker for 20 minutes because you would go down that road and those are the times he would look you in the eye and make great points and you would counter and he would take your opinion and he would agree with it or disagree with it and really get into the conversation. But then every day after that for the next three months, you’d walk past him and he wouldn’t make eye contact. (He’s) a strange person to encounter that way. I had some of the best baseball conversations ever with him, but I had probably two or three of them a year, and I wish the guy that I had those conversations with showed up more. You cover a team every day, you develop different relationships and the fact that you can walk past the guy and not say hi sometimes, that was odd. But that’s just Alex. He did it with teammates and other people, too. But when he engaged you, you ended up walking away saying wow because you didn’t see that person enough – and you kind of wished you saw it more.”