On field and off, all eyes on A-Rod at Yankees' spring training

Wed Feb 25, 2015 6:36pm EST
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By Letitia Stein

TAMPA, Fla.(Reuters) - New York Yankees fans waited for six hours on Wednesday with baseballs, bats, cards and even a Wheaties box for slugger Alex Rodriguez to autograph in his first week back from a yearlong suspension in one of sport's biggest doping scandals.

Media outlets from New York to Japan lugged cameras between the team's training facilities in Tampa, Florida, hoping for a sighting of the 14-time All-Star with 654 career home runs.

"Love him, hate him, everyone has got an opinion," said Tom Ferguson, 50, of Tampa, waiting in line for an autograph. "He's the hottest thing in baseball right now."

Each move by A-Rod, as he is popularly known, has become a daily guessing game since he arrived early for spring training. He was forced to sit out the 2014 season when Major League Baseball found he had used multiple performance-enhancing drugs.

Rodriguez's handwritten apology to fans last week did little to put the scandal behind him.

Questions surround the 39-year-old player with a history of injuries, who is owed $61 million for the remaining three years of his Yankees contract despite having not played in a game since September 2013.

He has admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs from 2001-03 while playing for Texas. The confession in 2009 came after he had signed a new contract with the Yankees that was worth $275 million.

"He's a liar and a cheat," said 59-year-old Laurie McGill of Long Island, who peered through the fence where Rodriguez practiced Wednesday afternoon, across the street from the team's main complex.   Continued...

New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez (13) makes contact during batting practice of the afternoon  workouts at New York Yankee Minor League Complex. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports