I was wrong. Tim Tebow is a big deal, but Alex Rodriguez is clearly on another level.
Due to timing, I happened to be in the media room Wednesday when Rodriguez was getting wired up and prepping for what will be a walk-and-talk with Brodie Van Wagenen for ESPN. Indoors, he slunk in his chair, headphone always in, arms relaxed. This was just another day at the office, despite being surrounded by 7-10 production people and me, looking like a nervous teenager.
I said hello, because I had to do it. He understandably couldn't care less, but was not disrespectful. I'm not going to lie, my hands were shaking too much to take a picture with him. I'm a dork. But, the point being, it was not difficult to sense what would happen next...
He and his team strolled out of the media room with the quiet, casual, standard sounds of spring baseball still filling the air. He was quickly met by the Mets media staff, who greeted him and his crew to camp. Still, calm. However, when he turned the corner and became visible to fans just milling around the walk way between practice fields, it was like he turned on an electromagnet. In what seemed like seconds, he was surrounded on all sides by fans, pictures, cameras, baseballs, pens, wires, lights, Sharpies, staff and loud, aggressive demands from fans and media clashing to get beyond this point and to the field.
Meanwhile, as though experiencing a day at the beach, Rodriguez never blinked.
I witnessed two ESPN camera operators holding massive rigs get completely shoved to the ground. Again, Rodriguez didn't bristle or shoo anyone a way. In his sunglasses and sweater, beneath 85 degree heat, he never broke a sweat, breezed through 30-40 autographs and -- like a Hall of Fame running back behind a cohesive offensive line -- the sea before him slowly parted and he casually moved forward, one easy glide at a time, without being touched.
The production crew continued to surround him (some behind him, some walking backward in front of him, some holding lights, some holding cameras, some holding pads and phones to their ears) as he walked down the concrete path to Field 7.
Fans kept along side him, like a secret service detail, some continuing to bark for autographs and sneaking whatever picture they could grab for their phone. Standing tall, chin up, looking forward and acting oblivious to his fame, Rodriguez kept moving letting nothing get in his way.
He reached his destination, at which point security dropped the yellow plastic chain, which is standard practice. On a normal day, the thin barrier acts as a suitable divide between fans and media and players. This day, fans just mowed it down, continuing to follow Rodriguez and his film crew on to the field.
In 13 years being here, I have never seen such a total disregard for the rules. Mets media and security stepped in, raising hands and reminding people to step back, which they did... all while Rodriguez kept strolling.
He began to step on the grass behind second base, where Van Wagenen stood waiting to greet him. However, a young fan in a sparking Mets jersey climbed the fence holding a unsigned ball and politely called out, "A-Rod, I'm from New York, would you be the first to sign my ball." It was the first time in 100 yards that Rodriguez stopped gliding. He turned and shook hands with the boy.
"What's your name, young man," he asked, which was followed by an autograph and a quick chit chat about the fan's hometown. "Thank you for being so polite," Rodriguez said, as he shook the boy's hand one last time and moved to the field to begin his official job.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!