You knew the boos would start when Alex Rodriguez visited Blue Jays camp for the Spring Training opener on Wednesday. You knew they would keep coming every time he came to bat in a visiting stadium. The only thing left to chance was how A-Rod would respond to the catcalls.
So far, so good. Rodriguez homered in the fourth inning off of Toronto's Ricky Romero and drew two walks in his first game action of the year. After the game he told reporters that the fans didn't faze him at all.
"When you're playing, it's hard to focus on standing ovations or boos. You're just trying to go out there and do your job," Rodriguez said. "Again, I didn't see anything that was bad at all."
When A-Rod came to bat for the first time, the crowd was filled with more hecklers than supporters. The expected steroid jeering took place, but A-Rod's whole litany of embarassing moments was represented. People yelled things about "Madonna" and called him "A-Fraud," in addition to asking for his alleged steroid providing cousin. Obviously A-Rod had no problem putting that out of his mind, although February 25th in Dunedin is going to be different than the first trip to Fenway Park.
By his final at-bat, though, the crowd had changed its tune and greeted Rodriguez with more cheers than boos. An abundant crew of Yankee fans provided the support, giving a hint to the way fans of the team are feeling about A-Rod. The reaction of Yankee fans to the much maligned slugger is a variable that has been hard to predict, but today's reaction indicates that wearing pinstripes trumps other feelings.
That may create a replay of the final few years of Barry Bonds' career, when he'd get treated harshly in every city but San Francisco. Giants fans stuck with Bonds, and it seems like Yankee fans will stick by A-Rod. At least until he strikes out in the eighth with runners on base, that is.