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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

New York Yankees Officially Welcome Alex Rodriguez

Aired February 17, 2004 - 12:22   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You're looking live at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York, the newest New York Yankee. There he is wearing the pinstripes. Alex Rodriguez, he's now a New York Yankee. You see him standing between Derek Jeter and Joe Torre, the manager of the New York Yankees.
They're going to be talking. They're going to be answering some questions. Let's listen briefly to see the festivities, this ceremony under way at Yankee Stadium right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe, put the hat on, if you would. They liked it. OK, thank you, Joe and Derek.

Cynthia, can we -- can we get one with Cynthia as well?

BLITZER: All right. So there you saw it. You saw Alex Rodriguez, A-Rod. He's wearing the pinstripes of the New York Yankees.

What a story for baseball fans all around the country. Indeed, all around the world. Alex Rodriguez coming to New York City now, where he'll be playing third base for the New York Yankees. The most valuable player in Major League Baseball. Clearly something that is going to excite and energize the already powerful and already energized New York Yankee fans.

Let's find out how they're reacting. CNN's Maria Hinojosa is watching all of this with us. But before we go to Maria, let's just listen briefly to Alex Rodriguez talk about being a Yankee.

ALEX RODRIGUEZ, NY YANKEE: Wow. What a reception. Just obviously overwhelmed.

I'm very, very happy to be here. I still feel like someone is going to pinch me and wake me up. An opportunity to be a New York Yankee and to have an opportunity to come to the park every day is something that I relish and really, really looking forward to.

I'd like to take this opportunity to really thank all the parties involved. I mean, the Texas Rangers, my attorney, Scott Borris (ph), and obviously the whole New York Yankee organization, the way they handled this transaction, which was quite complex. I tip my cap to the whole organization, top to bottom, and especially Mr. Steinbrenner, the guy that writes the checks.

So I'm very happy to be here. I also want to thank my wife for putting up with such a difficult process. And I think Derek had a great line when my wife spoke to him. Cynthia said, "I'm glad that this whole thing is over." And Derek said, "The party has just begun."

So thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Folks, we'll take a couple of questions for Alex. If you would hold on until you get the microphone from the yes (ph) network. Where are the microphones? Be a little quicker than that.

And we're going to start off, as is our custom, with Warner Wolf. We're not superstitious, but we're starting...

QUESTION: Alex, welcome. What do you anticipate would be the toughest part of playing third base to master, going toward the line, or in the hole, or starting the double play, or coming up for a bunt or a top ball (ph)? And also, have you spoken to Cal Ripken, or do you plan to, shifting from short to third?

RODRIGUEZ: To answer the last question, I haven't spoken to anyone about playing third base. This is all very new to me.

As far as -- I was talking to Cash (ph) and Randy (ph), and I think Greg Nettles is going to be down at spring training. So I'm going to look for a little bit of leadership from his point of view and some tips.

I think all of it will be very challenging. I mean, playing short stop was very, very challenging. Now coming over and playing a new position, I think being a former short stop, it gives you a dimension of flexibility in handling different types of plays. As a short stop, you handle every type of play, including soft rollers (ph) and fly balls over your head.

So I'm looking forward to the challenge. It's going to be a great challenge. And I'm going to work my butt off to be the best that I can be there.

QUESTION: Alex, how did you come to the decision that you would move to third base? What were the nature of the discussions you had concerning the move?

RODRIGUEZ: Jamie (ph), it was pretty simple. I mean, we've always -- Derek and I used to joke about it when we were 19, 20 years old coming up. And it has always been kind of a running joke.

We were thinking about it more when I was 38, not 28. It was simple. It was just a conversation between Scott and I which was very soft, very subtle conversation, which kind of intrigued me a little bit.

I think I've come to a point in my career winning is the most important thing. Aside from all personal accolades, I think I've done a lot there, but winning is the most important thing. And being a New York Yankee and the history and the present and the future, I think it provides an opportunity when you drive to the ballpark every day that you actually have an opportunity to win and win big. Hopefully in October. So I think it was just team over personal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to go right here and then right there.

QUESTION: Alex, you're...

BLITZER: All right. So Alex Rodriguez is now a New York Yankee. He's really excited about playing third base, moving over from the short stop position.

Let's check in with CNN's Maria Hinojosa. She's over at Yankee Stadium talking to some fans.

How excited are they?

MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN URBAN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Pretty excited. Wolf, look, if you're a baseball fan, this is a huge deal. And, of course, The New York Post we're the lucky ones that got that first exclusive photograph of A-Rod, Alex Rodriguez's arrival here in New York City. And the big word is that he went straight to Derek Jeter's apartment over there by the United Nations.

A little bit different neighborhood than here in the Bronx. It's the house where (UNINTELLIGIBLE) constructed, actually.

Now, of course, behind me you can get a sense of a little bit of the fans that came out here. About 20 minutes ago, this was packed with fans. And as soon as they saw A-Rod walk in, they just burst out in cheers, started applauding. And then, of course, like smart New Yorkers, they immediately ran in to get warm because it is freezing outside. I don't know if A-Rod knows that he'll have to dealing with a little bit of cold.

But, you know, a lot of people are talking about, yes, this is one of the biggest deals in baseball history, $252 million is what Alex gets paid for 10 years. New York is now going to pay out the rest of that contract, seven years. But there is also a sense of, you know, on his part, a bit of humility. You can even hear it, the tone that he has.

He said, "I'm going to work" -- in his words -- he said, "I'm going to work my butt off." It doesn't seem as if he's coming in here thinking that he's just going to be able to slide right in.

But there are also some New Yorkers who are saying, hey, this is just overblown, this kind of money. Is it really all worth it? You know, it is just baseball.

And someone said, "Listen, as soon as they start charging those $10 for the hotdogs inside Yankee Stadium, who knows how the fans are going to be feeling." But there's a lot of interest, a lot of commotion.

Let me give you another sense of something that came up. Right over here at the Yankees' team store, well they've already got the Rodriguez number 13 jersey. And the cost of that? $99.99. Quite a bit of money just for a jersey.

But Rodriguez, yes, he's making all of this money, a lot of money. But he's also someone who people say likes to give back. In 1996, he founded an organization called Grand Slam for Kids, which is not only about sports. It is about good grades.

Within the Dominican community, a lot of talk. He's the son of Dominican immigrants. But, of course, there's also that concern about what's happening now that they've traded Alphonso Soriano for Alex Rodriguez. But you know what, overall, if you love baseball, everybody says, hey, it doesn't get any better than this.

And one last thing, Wolf. You know, the Yankees like to do things big. It is about winning. It's about big events about. But this press conference here is considered the biggest event they've ever done.

And just -- it was not all coordinated until just a few minutes before, when Alex arrived. It all came together. But even here, this has been something of a challenge just for the Yankees to pull this one off. But so far so good, without a glitch -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. CNN's Maria Hinojosa at Yankee Stadium in New York in the Bronx, where they've just made it available. Alex Rodriguez wearing the pinstripes of the New York Yankees. An exciting moment in baseball history.

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