Alex Rodriguez has the baseball he hit for his 600th home run thanks to a Yankee Stadium security guard who might have been able to get $100,000 from memorabilia collectors for the piece of history.
Frankie Babilonia, in his second season as an employee of the New York Yankees, was filling in for a colleague who was on break when Rodriguez’s milestone blast sailed over the center- field wall during the first inning of yesterday’s 5-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.
The 23-year-old Babilonia said he stumbled several times while scrambling to retrieve the ball and then turned it over to Yankee officials, per team policy. Rodriguez, who became the seventh player in Major League Baseball history to hit 600 homers, received the ball after the game and gave an autographed bat to Babilonia as thanks.
“I’m very blessed that Frankie was so generous,” Rodriguez, 35, said in a post-game interview before posing for pictures with Babilonia. “I was lucky to hit it to center field to have one of our guys get it.”
A three-time American League Most Valuable Player, Rodriguez joins Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr. and Sammy Sosa as the only major leaguers to hit 600 career homers. Rodriguez said yesterday he isn’t sure what he’ll do with the milestone ball.
Brandon Steiner, chief executive officer of Steiner Sports Marketing Inc. in New Rochelle, New York, said a fan might have been able to sell the ball for $75,000 to $100,000. Babilonia, who lives on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, called the moment a “lifetime experience” and said he never considered trying to pocket the ball.
“It’s something I’ll never forget, but I like doing my job,” Babilonia told reporters outside the main interview room at Yankee Stadium. “I was pretty lucky.”
Babilonia, after saying Derek Jeter is his favorite Yankee player, said he plans to frame the bat he received from Rodriguez and hang it on his wall at home.
Jeter, the Yankee captain, was on first base when Rodriguez homered yesterday, and was the first player on hand to congratulate him at home plate.
Rodriguez’s 600th homer, off Blue Jays pitcherShaun Marcum, came three years to the day after he hit No. 500. It also ended a 46 at-bat homerless drought for Rodriguez since his 599th homer on July 22 -- the longest for any player trying to hit his 600th home run.
“It really felt good and it was a relief to put it past me and just focus on baseball,” Rodriguez said after helping the Yankees end a three-game losing streak.
Youngest to 600
Rodriguez became the youngest player with 600 homers -- Ruth was 36 when he reached the mark. Next up for Rodriguez is passing those ahead of him on the career home run list. Sosa retired with 609 homers while Griffey, who retired earlier this season, had 630.
As part of the record 10-year, $275 million contract he signed with the Yankees in December 2007, Rodriguez also has five home run incentives that could push the total value to $305 million if he breaks Bonds’s record of 762.
He’ll get $6 million for each of four milestones -- matching Mays (660), Ruth (714), Aaron (755) and Bonds -- and another $6 million for setting the home-run record.
Rodriguez, who in February 2009 admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs while with the Texas Rangers from 2001-03, said he isn’t focused on Bonds’s record.
“It took me three years to hit 100, so that’s not even on my radar right now,” Rodriguez said. “Maybe we’ll revisit that in three years or so. The journey is what’s fun.”