Video Report by Mike Magnoli, Fox CT
Text By Michael Martinez, CNN
(CNN) — Alex Rodriguez is the rare athlete who transcends the sport in which he is considered one of the greatest players of all time.
It hasn’t been easy.
There have been glamour moments: the baseball superstar dated Madonna, Kate Hudson and Cameron Diaz, among others.
Handsome, rich and dapper, “A-Rod” is considered a man-about-town. The tabloids loved it all and once renamed him “Stray-Rod.” The larger-than-life behavior cost him his marriage, by which he had two children, in 2008.
On the diamond, the slugger’s performance has been exceptional, though he has been recovering from off-season hip surgery and, more recently, a tight quadricep this year.
His long list of accomplishments makes him a living legend still in the game, and fans flock to the field just to see the great Alexander Rodriguez at bat one more time.
The New York Yankee third baseman is a three-time American League MVP, 14-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove. He owns one World Series ring, with the Yankees in 2009.
The baseball records have been sullied, however, by his prior admission of using banned substances in the early 2000s and by newer allegations this past year of having used performance-enhancing drugs.
Those scandals take on bigger meaning because of Rodriguez’s unique mark in baseball: He has the largest contract ever in American sports, at $275 million over 10 years, signed with the Yankees in 2007.
His detractors call it the worst deal ever because of Rodriguez’s health and playing lapses as well as his roguery, including when he flirted with two blond female fans sitting near the Yankees dugout in playoff game in October. The team was swept in the American League Championship Series.
This season is supposed to begin the last great hurrah for Rodriguez, the early verses of a swan song. Even he acknowledged it. He just turned 38 on July 27, and he was recovering from his second hip surgery since 2009 — “definitely the hardest surgery I’ve had to overcome,” he told CNN.
Rodriguez is poised to surpass major milestones: 3,000 hits, 2,000 RBIs and 2,000 runs. He now has 647 homers, and while he admitted he hasn’t been the long-ball hitter he used to be, maybe a couple of more seasons could put him at the 700 mark.
He recently expressed the urgency of the moment.
“Look, there’s no hiding it. I’m not a spring chicken anymore. I’m not 28. I’m going to be 38 here in July. But I do think I can contribute,” Rodriguez said last month. “I think I can be a force in the middle lineup, a big right-handed bat for our team, but I’m at a different stage of my career. Is it realistic to go out and hit 40, 50 home runs? I don’t think so. But can I go out and have nights like I did last night and do that several times a week? I think so.”
Rodriguez was referring to his home run in a minor league game in mid-July, where he was testing his surgically repaired hip. His return date to the Yankees lineup has been a cipher all season.
The injury didn’t help him in a bigger controversy about his health: Rodriguez was accused of having ties with the now-shuttered Biogenesis anti-aging clinic in south Florida and taking performance enhancing drugs.
Rodriguez has denied the accusation. The stakes are intensified because it’s not the first time he has faced issues about doping.
In 2009, he admitted to using “a banned substance” over three years when he was playing for the Texas Rangers beginning in 2001. Media reports said the drug was steroids, and pundits relabeled him “A-Roid.”
The admission — along with the recent allegations — could alter his legacy: Some sport analysts say Rodriguez may struggle, once he retires, in the Hall of Fame voting selection process.
In whatever way history may judge him, there’s no denying how Rodriguez has made much of his life.
His was a rags-to-riches story: He was born in New York City to Dominican Republic immigrant parents. His father was a shoe salesman and a catcher in Dominican pro baseball. His mother held two jobs, as a waitress and secretary.
His parents moved him and their two other children to the Dominican Republic when Alex was 4. The family then moved to the Miami area when Alex was 8.
Later, his parents divorced, but not before Alex learned some baseball from his father.
His mother sent him to a Christian private school, where he became well-groomed, well-mannered and a high school athlete who excelled at just about every sport.
By 18, at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, he was playing for the Seattle Mariners at shortstop. Much bigger than the typical shortstop, he helped redefine the position.
He won many awards and honors at Seattle, then at the Texas Rangers, and finally at the Yankees, who signed him in 2004.
As he became wealthy, he donated millions to charity, including for facilities and scholarships benefiting youngsters in the Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade in south Florida.
Rodriguez never forgot that he spent a lot of time at the Miami club as a boy of divorced parents.