Alex Rodriguez—The Interview

Marvin R. Shanken sits down with Alex Rodriguez, one of the most talented—and polarizing—baseball players to ever play the game
| By Marvin R. Shanken | From Alex Rodriguez, September/October 2018
Alex Rodriguez—The Interview
Photos/David Yellen

Alex Rodriguez was only 10 years old when his father walked out, leaving his mother Lourdes alone to support the family. The young Rodriguez watched his mother—who worked two jobs—struggle with the rent, and he became determined to use his budding athletic talents to give her a better life. He was a star in high school, and skipped college as he was drafted No. 1 by the Seattle Mariners in 1993 at the age of 17. In 22 seasons, he amassed statistics that are the stuff of legend: 696 home runs, 2,086 runs batted in, 14 times named an All Star. Only three men have hit more home runs in a career. No one has hit more grand slams. He was well rewarded for his efforts, signing record contracts with the Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees, and he tasted victory when he and the Yankees won the 2009 World Series.

But Rodriguez struggled at times in the bright light of superstardom. His salary made him a target for criticism, and Major League Baseball suspended him for the entire 2014 season for steroid use. He came back to the Yankees in 2015 with a new perspective on life, and played his final game on August 12, 2016.

Today, Rodriguez is back in the public eye as a critically acclaimed analyst talking baseball on Fox and ESPN. He is dating superstar Jennifer Lopez, appears on “Shark Tank” and is a savvy investor. He bought his first piece of real estate as a young athlete, and today his A-Rod Corp. manages more than 15,000 apartment units, among other business ventures. In mid-June, Rodriguez sat down with Marvin R. Shanken in the New York City offices of Cigar Aficionado for a candid discussion about his life in baseball, his business empire, love of cigars and a great deal more.

Shanken: Everybody knows who you are. Nobody knows who you are. Which statement is true?
Rodriguez: In my playing days, pre-suspension, I think they’re both accurate. Post-suspension, people are getting to know me a lot better. 

Alex Rodriguez—The Interview

Shanken: You live in a fishbowl. How do you handle your stardom? Your need for privacy?
Rodriguez: You know Marvin, that’s a difficult one, because I played for about 25 years, and for such a long time I just hid from it, I ran away from it. I didn’t feel secure that I had to go play baseball and be the best that I can be. I just wanted to play baseball, hit home runs and help my team win championships. And pre-suspension/post-suspension, what I realized was that I needed to make a paradigm shift. Because somebody else was telling my story. And I knew I had made mistakes but I wasn’t a bad guy. But I was being portrayed as a bad guy. And I needed the full year, the sabbatical, to understand that I better start taking control of my life, of my narrative. Start telling my story. Good, bad or ugly, just be real, just be honest and then take your chances. Because people hate you and it’s not even you. At least be yourself. If they’re going to hate me, hate the real me.

Shanken: I’ve asked a lot of people about you. Most of them have never met you. Some love you, some hate you. What advice would today’s Alex Rodriguez, you, give to the 17-year-old Alex Rodriguez who was drafted by the Seattle Mariners?
Rodriguez: I would say: think a lot. Act slow. Surround yourself with the greatest people you can find. You know we talk about collecting cigars, we talk about collecting art, some people collect cars. I think the greatest collection you can build is of people. People of character. People with integrity. People that are much, much smarter than you. In a sense, I know people say this all the time, but it’s true: you are an average of the five people you hang out with the most.

Shanken: You’ve said that you came back from the suspension a different person. Tell me how you are different.
Rodriguez: What I wanted to do in that year of suspension were three things. No. 1, I needed to heal physically and emotionally. I had two hip surgeries, two knee surgeries. My mind was a mess. I was exhausted and I just needed to rest. I disappeared to the Maldives for two weeks. I was completely on my own. The other thing I wanted to do was continue to get educated. I enrolled in business school at Columbia, I enrolled in the University of Miami, the business school. And then the third thing I needed to do, and most importantly Marvin, was get therapy. I wanted to understand why I kept beating myself. I was a pretty good guy making these dumb, silly decisions. And I wanted to dig into my childhood. My father left when I was 10. And I wanted to get a grip on that. 

Shanken: I understand that you were searching for redemption. Who helped you?
Rodriguez: It was such a tough and embarrassing time, what I had done to myself. For a while there, I played the victim. For a while I wanted to point fingers. There was no one to blame.

Shanken: But when you were at your lowest low, was there anyone that you leaned on to help you stand up?
Rodriguez: Yeah. It was family. It was my mother, it was my brother Joe, it was my sister Susy. My daughters were incredibly supportive. And a collection of friends that I have who have been around since I was eight years old. And some people ran fast and some people dug in their heels and became even closer to me. I wrote down on a piece of paper about 10 names, people that I admired greatly. I wanted at my lowest point—in a world of Instagram, and emails and texts, where it’s so easy to just send a message over email—I wanted to talk to everyone. I wanted them to hear my voice, when I was weakest and most vulnerable. And to this day, they’re all my friends, they’re all my partners, and they say that was the most impressive thing I’ve done in my entire career.

Video: Alex Rodriguez - Being The Author Of Your Own Story

Shanken: I read a lot of articles as background, and I never found the answer to a simple question. Did you ever look inside and ask yourself why?
Rodriguez: I think, in simple form, I didn’t think I was enough. And today I do.

Shanken: If your obituary does not list you as a member of the Hall of Fame, how does that legacy mark your career?
Rodriguez: There’s rules, and you have to follow the rules. I made those mistakes, and at the end of the day I have to live by those mistakes. Whether I get in or not—and let’s be clear, I want to get in, I hope I get in, I pray I get in—if I don’t, I think I have a bigger opportunity yet again. And the platform of my mistakes, the good the bad and the ugly, has allowed me to have a loud voice to the next generation, to say when in doubt, just look at my career. Look at the good, look at the bad, look at the ugly. And just make good decisions, have the power of restriction that I didn’t have. The other message is, maybe I’m not a Hall of Fame player, but I get a chance to be a Hall of Fame dad, a Hall of Fame friend. 

Shanken: This Sunday is Father’s Day. Take me back to Father’s Day weekend in 2000, when you hit two home runs [with your father, Victor, in attendance].
Rodriguez: My father wasn’t around for a large portion of my life. It was really important for me to have one Father’s Day. I wanted closure. I also wanted to know that it wasn’t my fault that my father left. It was very confusing as a 10-year-old boy. I always thought he would come back. We were in Miami, I lived with my mother, my brother Joe, my sister Susy. And he left to New York. And it was my understanding that he just didn’t like Miami. So I felt it was just going to be three months or six months and dad was going to come back. And he never came back. I didn’t understand how painful that was. And I just clouded it with playing baseball, trying to get good grades and earn my scholarship to schools. But when you fast forward to 2000, I knew he was getting older, so I didn’t know how much longer he would be around. And I picked Minnesota because it’s a very low-key city. And we didn’t stay in the team hotel, we stayed in another hotel. I wanted to be able to connect and not have anybody see us together. I sent him out to get three suits ’cause he always wanted to be in a suit. And he came to four games. And on Father’s Day I had one of the greatest offensive days of my career. And I always thought the Good Lord up there was just looking down and saying this one is from me to you. It was a day that I’ll never forget. My father passed about three years ago. But going back to that day—I’m at peace with it.

Shanken: Did you ever reconcile further? Or was it just that particular moment?
Rodriguez: It was basically that moment. And it was a pure moment. It was four days. That entire series I was playing like with my hair on fire, like I had a superpower. I was a skinny kid, I was in my early 20s, and it was so much fun, ’cause I knew how much my dad loved baseball. And I was kind of showing off and putting on a show for him. 

Shanken: He was a baseball player in the Dominican Republic. When you were a kid, do you remember him teaching you, playing with you? Throwing the ball?
Rodriguez: No, because he was older. But what I do remember was sitting on his lap as a toddler and listening to [Yankees announcer] Phil Rizzuto and [Mets announcer] Ralph Kiner.

Alex Rodriguez—The Interview

Shanken: Did he ever look you in the eye and say, “Here’s why I never called you, I never came to visit you, I opted out of your life?”
Rodriguez: No. If I had the tools that I have today, it would have been a much different conversation, and a lot more pointed questions. As a young, 20-year-old with the world moving so fast, I was happy for the win. 

Shanken: One of many quotes that I picked up from you is “I miss my four at-bats every day, I miss the fans, the clubhouse and the boys, but I don’t miss the travel, I don’t miss waking up in pain every day.” That pretty much sums up a lot of things. I asked a Yankee fan about A-Rod and she said, “He brought crowds to every stadium in the country, even if it was just to boo him. Nothing was more fun than watching an away game and seeing the whole place go nuts when A-Rod came to bat.” Do you remember those days?
Rodriguez: Oh yeah. That part of it I loved. There’s no greater compliment than having 50,000 people on the road booing you. It was a form of respect. With that said, there’s nothing worse than getting booed by 56,000 people at home. And those who say they don’t hear it, they’re bullshitting you. They hear it, and it doesn’t feel good.

Video: Alex Rodriguez - Hall Of Fame

Shanken: When you were in high school in Florida, playing baseball, you must have had a team that you really wanted to play for. Who was that team?
Rodriguez: The Mets. Growing up, there were three cable channels. You had WOR where you could watch the Mets, there was TBS and the Atlanta Braves, and every so often we had WGN with Harry Carey and the Cubs. For me, it was the Braves and the Mets.

Shanken: So when you got drafted by Seattle, did you care where you were going? Or were you just happy to be drafted No. 1?
Rodriguez: I did care, because I said boy, this is the farthest place from Miami. I wanted to be drafted by the Dodgers so my mother could drive to see me in spring training. Seattle was the biggest blessing in disguise for me.

Shanken: And then, to Texas. [Rodriguez signed a 10-year, $252 million contract with the Rangers in 2000, a record at the time.] Forgetting about the money—maybe you can’t forget about the money—was that a welcome place to go, or was that a worthwhile place to go?
Rodriguez: It was worthwhile and I learned a great deal. I thought that with Tom Hicks as an owner, we had endless potential to turn that market around. It didn’t work out that way. I had three very good years. The team didn’t do so well. And then Tom ran into some liquidity problems, and asked me “do you mind if we shop you around?” And I gave him a list of three or four teams, and the process started.

Shanken: There’s been speculation that your first choice was Boston. And that Boston wanted you, you wanted Boston, but the union wouldn’t allow it and that’s how you backdoored into the Yankees. Is that a true story?
Rodriguez: That’s a true story. What happened was, the commissioner at the time gave us a window for John Henry, the general partner of the Boston Red Sox, and Theo Epstein [then the general manager of the club] to talk to us for about 72 hours. And right here [in New York], around 2:30 in the morning, I had about a three-hour meeting with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. They’re now both with the [Chicago] Cubs. And we basically kind of went through this thorough plan of the organization, the team, how does it look today, how will it look in the future, and we were doing mock lineups. And the three of us, in our late-20s, all baseball nerds, just were thrilled. And the deal was done. There’s a contract out there with Theo’s signature and my signature. When we took it to the union, they said, “There’s no way you can concede giving this money back, it will set a bad precedent,” and they basically kiboshed the whole thing. 

Shanken: And then how did it become the Yankees?
Rodriguez: So a few weeks later I’m collecting my MVP award, right here in New York, and I’m sitting next to Brian Cashman [general manager of the New York Yankees] of all people. And Brian starts saying ‘boy I’m glad that deal didn’t go through, we were sweating over here.’ And I’m like ‘yeah, I can tell you I was really disappointed.’ I was a shortstop, had just won the gold glove, had just won the MVP, and I thought going up against the Yankees, they had a great team, they had a great shortstop in Derek [Jeter] and I thought it would be a little bit of the Magic-Bird thing and it would be great for baseball. Obviously it didn’t turn out that way. At the time I say, let me get a vodka club soda please, and Cash gets a drink, and he goes ‘boy, I tell you, if you ever consider playing third base maybe this is a good place for you.’ And that turned into, a couple weeks later, a press conference of me becoming a Yankee.

Shanken: So I need to go back before I go forward. I’m going to read off a few names and you tell me who they are. Vinny Testaverde. Ken Dorsey. Jim Kelly. Gino Torretta. Bernie Kosar. Steve Walsh.
Rodriguez: Alex Rodriguez next. [laughs]

Shanken: Why do I bring that up?
Rodriguez: All great quarterbacks, legendary at the University of Miami. When I signed my scholarship for the University of Miami it was to be quarterback and to play shortstop. I always wanted to play quarterback for the University of Miami. 

Shanken: Did you stop playing football because you never had any serious interest, or were you just so in love with baseball?
Rodriguez: Well I certainly wanted to play football, and the plan was that if I chose to go the NCAA route I would have played football and baseball. Once I decided to sign as the No. 1 pick in 1993, well then I just wanted to put all my energy and focus into baseball.

Shanken: So you never really seriously considered going to college?
Rodriguez: The plan was to go to college, and the negotiations got so tight at the end that my mom and I were completely committed—with many hours of conversations—to go to Miami for three years and then reenter the draft in 1996. At the very last moment the Mariners made their last pitch. The negotiations were at a long table like this, and I’m 17 and I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, I say, “I want my mother to have three first-class tickets to be able to visit me during the summer, because I should be a freshman in Miami and I’m going to be a freshman somewhere in Seattle.” They said done deal, and I became a Mariner.

Shanken: Tell me what you remember about growing up, first in New York, then in Dominican Republic then in Miami with your mother.
Rodriguez: New York was a great place to be as a young boy. I remember my brother always being out playing with rubber balls and stickball. Then I was kind of sad and bummed that at the age of four we headed down to the Dominican Republic. My mother wanted me in a safer environment. We went to the Dominican and I had a great time there. My father was happy and my mother was happy. And a lot of my baseball, my DNA, came in those four years. It made me gritty, it made me really appreciate a lot of things. And then when we landed here, at the age of 8 or 9, one of the first things I did was join the Boys & Girls Club [in Miami]. I thought I had walked into Princeton campus or Harvard. It was so nice—they had new balls, great aluminum bats. I was just so happy, so grateful. And that was kind of the start of my formal baseball life.

Shanken: Tell me who Eddie Rodriguez is and was.
Rodriguez: Eddie Rodriguez was the director of the Boys & Girls Clubs [of Miami], and still is. He was the first coach that I had here when I got to Miami. And they call him The Rooster, in Spanish El Gallo. It was because he was feisty. He wanted to fight everyone. I loved him. He was really tough, tough love from day one. In many ways he was like Lou Piniella, my first manager in pro sports. Eddie is a real hero, he’s dedicated his whole adult life to Boys & Girls Clubs. And I would say we’ve had over 25 Major League Baseball players come out of his program. It’s phenomenal work.

Shanken: Was he your father figure?
Rodriguez: I think I had two or three father figures. Eddie Rodriguez is No. 1—

Shanken: And he’s not a relative, just for the record.
Rodriguez: I think I was fortunate to have Rich Hoffman, who was my high school coach at Westminster, and then the third one was a gentleman who was very instrumental in my life, J.D. Ortega Sr. His son is like my brother. He’s a pitching coach with the University of Miami. Those are the three mentors, father figures, who replaced my father.

Shanken: When you were in high school, before you were drafted, what were your dreams?
Rodriguez: To get out of the hood. I wanted a scholarship badly. I knew I wanted a better life. I saw my mother, after my father left the house when I was 10, and I saw her take on a second job. She was a secretary in the day and served tables at night. And she was only able to go to a handful of games in my entire Little League career and I wanted very badly to do well, to be able to help her. Then in 1993 when I signed my first contract, the first thing I did was buy her a house, and I bought her a car. And I said, “mom, you no longer have to work anymore.” She quit both jobs and she hasn’t worked ever since.

Shanken: Let me read you a list of names. Babe Ruth, Lou Gherig, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio. Alex Rodriguez.
Rodriguez: [long pause] Pretty cool. We’re all Yankees. We’re all champions. Being a Yankee—there is really nothing like it. It’s such a surreal experience, and I don’t want to be corny but when George Steinbrenner brought me over in 2004 from the Rangers, I felt such great pride. Pre-suspension, I didn’t really understand or value the privilege to put on the pinstripes everyday. I didn’t understand how grateful I should have been. And post-suspension, I remember one day I was 40 years old, 10 minutes before the game, we’re at home, the new stadium, and I look in the mirror and I said, “holy shit. I’m wearing pinstripes. I’m a Yankee.” The same names you just rattled off. They wore this exact same uniform. And here I am at 40 years old, hitting third for the New York Yankees. Hitting 33 home runs. Going back to the postseason, and it’s the same uniform that I wore as a child at the Boys & Girls Club. And I think that connection for me, and that appreciation, it kind of started this anew.

Video: A-Rod And Cigars

Shanken: You were good friends with Derek Jeter, then you weren’t good friends with Derek Jeter. Where does that relationship stand now?
Rodriguez: So, Derek and I are friends. I’ve known Derek since we were 15 years old. I remember he came to a University of Miami game. He had signed with Michigan. I looked up to Derek because he was one year ahead of me. He bypassed the University of Michigan, of course became a Yankee then a five-time world champion and the rest is history. I entered the big leagues as an 18-year-old. I basically went from the prom to Fenway Park. And we were very, very close. When I came to New York I would stay at his place, when he came to Seattle he would stay at mine. And like all relationships, there’s ups, there’s downs, there’s ups, but where it sits today is where it’s always sat—with respect. I have a lot of love and admiration for Derek, and he’s a five-time world champion and what I remember most about our relationship is he’s one of the greatest competitors, consummate professionals I’ve ever been around. And we were world champions together in 2009.

Shanken: So we’re going to get into your business, but before we do that, I am—and probably a lot of my readers—an avid fan of “Shark Tank.” How did it happen?
Rodriguez: “Shark Tank”—this thing is a juggernaut. It’s been one of the greatest shows ever. There’s been over $100 million deployed out there in businesses. It’s created more than 10,000 jobs. And I would venture to say that it’s made more entrepreneurs than all the Ivy League schools combined over the last 10 years. And from my daughters, to my mother, to my friends to you, everyone loves “Shark Tank.” 

Shanken: How many times have you been on?
Rodriguez: I’ve been on, I believe, four shows. And actually on Thursday, I’m going to go back to film for Season 10. 

Shanken: How many times a year will you be part of it?
Rodriguez: I’m hoping for at least four for Season 10. 

Shanken: Have you made any investments?
Rodriguez: I’ve made three or four investments. One I bought with Mark Cuban. We actually bought into a good company called Ice Shaker. Our partner is Gronk, [Rob] Gronkowski [of the Patriots]. Rob’s brother has a finance background and has done a great job marketing this thing. And since Mark and I bought into this business it’s probably gone up 2,000 percent. So we’re very happy with that investment.

Alex Rodriguez—The Interview

Shanken: One of the things I’ve heard, a lot of the deals that are done on camera don’t actually close.
Rodriguez: That’s accurate. Fifty or 60 percent is where it lands. I know I bought four companies, and our due diligence process, we’ve closed on two. 

Shanken: Let’s talk a little bit about cigars. Do you remember when you had your first cigar?
Rodriguez: I don’t remember my first cigar, but the first time I made a pivot from liking cigars to loving them was while playing golf with Michael Jordan. 

Shanken: Oh, Michael’s going to read this—he’s going to smile.
Rodriguez: So not only does Michael sell sneakers—I saw where he’s doing $3 billion in sales in your interview [December 2017]—but he’s a good ambassador for cigars. It was a Hoyo de Monterrey Double Corona.

Shanken: Did you get sick?
Rodriguez: I didn’t.

Shanken: How many did you have the first time?
Rodriguez: Just one. And boy I just fell in love with it. Then I couldn’t find them, they were hard to find for me. 

Shanken: How many years ago was this?
Rodriguez: Oh boy, it had to be around 2000, ’99. I love having a cigar when I get home—especially when I’m in Florida—and I sit out by the pool and I turn on the Yankee game. I got to make sure my girls are asleep. 

Shanken: Do you have any favorites?
Rodriguez: Hoyo de Monterrey is my favorite. 

Shanken: Have you ever had a pre-Castro Cuban?
Rodriguez: Nope.

Shanken: Would you like one?
Rodriguez: I would love one.

Shanken: [slides him a pre-Castro Don Candido cigar.] I’m going to have one myself.
Rodriguez: Can I tell you about the best cigar?

Shanken: Up until now?
Rodriguez: Well, I’m going to tell you before I light up. It’s 2009, we [the New York Yankees] win the World Series and our entire team goes to a club called One Oak. It’s downtown, right here in New York City. And we closed the place down. Then we went and had some pizza at one of these open pizza places at five or six in the morning. And right outside, we lit up some cigars. And we thought about that entire year. And for me it was a 15-year wait to be a world champion. That’s the best cigar I’ve ever had.

Shanken: So let’s talk about business and charity. I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that you have many different businesses. How did that come about?
Rodriguez: It started out of fear. I saw some data points that scared the crap out of me. What I saw early on was that the average career is five-and-a-half years for baseball. You make 90 percent of your lifetime earnings from age 20 to 30. And of the 750 players that are in the Major Leagues, less than 5 percent have a college degree. And I’m not a stock broker, but with that information alone I would short that stock. So I didn’t want to be one of those numbers. Early on, I said I wanted to buy real estate. And I remember my first down payment for a duplex in Miami that I bought near the water. I bought it for $250,000, and I needed about a $48,000 down payment. I didn’t want to go into my small savings, because I didn’t have a lot, so I remember selling two watches. Because of course when you sign as a first round [pick] in Miami, the first thing you do is you buy a Rolex. So I was able to sell that Rolex. And then I did a car signing, and collected enough. Took my down payment and bought it. And then a couple of years later I sold it for double. And I said boy that’s pretty good. And over time we got our portfolio to be about 15,000 apartment units in 14 states.

Shanken: Fifteen thousand. You must have partners—that’s a huge portfolio.
Rodriguez: When we first started I didn’t have any partners, and then a great friend of mine from Miami, who was in the health care business, Ray Corona, became my partner. 

Shanken: So these are all rental units, with cash flow?
Rodriguez: All rentals, all cash flow, all non-recourse debt. All government financing, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac. 

Shanken: Is this conventional apartments or government-subsidized public housing?
Rodriguez: No public housing. Garden style. Average rent, call it $950. I saw my mother—we never had enough money to own anything. And I remember my mother having two jobs. And [the rent], feels like it comes every three days. I remember as a young kid thinking if I can ever trade places with the landlord, that’s what I’m going to do. And the first opportunity I had to be the landlord I bought my small duplex.

Shanken: So, do you have other significant businesses?
Rodriguez: For a long time it was three silos. It was real estate, fully integrated from top to bottom and management and all of that, to autos, and then health and fitness, meaning gyms. I had a great Mercedes-Benz store down in Houston, had a great business for more than 10 years, and then I exited that business in 2014. We just bought NRG eSports a few years ago. I sit on that board. [Note: Rodriguez and Shaquille O’Neil, among others, purchased a stake in NRG, a California company that invests in top-level video gamers.] The market is blowing up.

Video: Alex Rodriguez - Father's Day

Shanken: How do you enter new businesses?
Rodriguez: We want to always have someone who understands the business, usually 20 to 25 years of experience [as a partner]. I found a great guy, and a friend now, Mark Mastrov, who started 24 hour Fitness from basically his garage and he grew this to over 500 gyms. He sold to Ted Forstmann for $1.8 billion. He and I connected, and we started buying and creating gyms in Mexico, under Alex Rodriguez Energy. Then I bought the UFC rights in Florida, and recently bought a company called TruFusion. And we’ve created about $100 million in enterprise value.

Shanken: How do you keep track of all these things?
Rodriguez: I have a great team. Like sports, you have to have a great team.

Shanken: So I’m going to mention three guys, and you have to tell me what they have in common: Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky and Derek Jeter.
Rodriguez: Well they all have multiple championships…

Shanken: Tell me when you want a clue.
Rodriguez: Oh—they all own a team. Of course. [laughs]

Video: Alex Rodriguez - Building Your Business

Shanken: Do you have a thought, an interest, a dream, to one day have your own team?
Rodriguez: I did for a long time Marvin, and what I realized was that for me, right now—and I get calls all the time to be a strategic owner—for me it’s not the right time for several reasons. I think the time to buy a team was four or five years ago, if not before. I think these numbers have gotten pretty high. Hard to make a return on your investment for the GP [general partner] and the LP [limited partner]. And these franchises don’t come available very often. I was taught by one of my mentors not to go wide and shallow, but to go narrow and deep. And to go really deep into the things you like best. I didn’t have enough time, focus or energy to be running a team full time. And of course, if I bought a team I would be running it full time.

Shanken: Tell me about your charitable interests. What are you proudest of? What are you most active with?
Rodriguez: Boys & Girls Club in many ways saved my life. My mother was busy working, my father had left for New York. [I went to] Boys & Girls Clubs every day, from three sometimes to midnight. I was safe, my self-esteem got better, I did homework, I played baseball, it was heaven. I want to give that same opportunity to the next generation.

Shanken: At the University of Miami, there’s a baseball stadium that has your name on it. What caused you to do that?
Rodriguez: Well, I’m not that nice. When I was a young man I grew up loving Ron Frazier, who was the legendary [baseball] coach there. Of course, I didn’t have money to go into games. They had these really old ushers. They were pretty slow and they couldn’t see very well. My friends, we had a strategy—we would distract one, while the others would jump over the fence in the right-field corner. And once we were in by four o’clock we were there until midnight, just watching Hurricanes baseball. And I did this for a long time, so what I figured was—

Shanken: You owe them! [laughs]
Rodriguez: I had a lot of debt that I had to pay, so I said the first time I get a chance to give a nice donation, I wanted to give what I give to name the field Alex Rodriguez field.

Shanken: Tell me about the women in your life.
Rodriguez: Well, it starts with my mother. I’m big into women empowerment, women in equality. And that starts with watching my mother for many years. So much respect and admiration. I wish she had more power growing up. Obviously I have two daughters, and I want them to always aim for No. 1, aim for CEO, aim for president, don’t concede that job or that place, that power. And I have a sister. So I’ve always wanted women to be treated just like men. At my company they have a seat at the table, my two highest-paid employees are women, and I love it. 

Shanken: Are there any other women in your life these days? I’ve seen some pictures—it’s not a secret.
Rodriguez: Jennifer [Lopez], when you talk about power, and you talk about beautiful, both inside and outside. The way she mothers her twins, the way she’s with my daughters. There’s just so much admiration. And what I love about Jennifer is how genuine, how real, and how much she does for others, and how much she inspires others, men and women. 

Shanken: You don’t have to answer, but is there a plan? Is there a permanency?
Rodriguez: Well, we have a plan to fly to Miami this afternoon, to see our daughters. [laughs]

Shanken: That’s a plan!
Rodriguez: But we’re having a great time. Both of us are New York kids—she was born in the Bronx, I was born in Washington Heights—we’re both Latinos, she’s Puerto Rican, I’m Dominican. We’ve both been through a lot over the years, good and bad. And we’re both in our 40s now and feel like we have an opportunity to give back. And we enjoy ourselves and we’re having a good time.

Shanken: Final question. How would you like to be remembered?
Rodriguez: [long pause] I think, someone that has been through a lot. Has accomplished a lot. Has made great mistakes, but he refused to be defined by those mistakes. 

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