NEW YORK (AP) -- Alex Rodriguez strolled to the plate and soaked
in a standing ovation.
By the first inning, he already knew: Nothing compares to
opening day at Yankee Stadium.
"What sums up the whole day, one of their guys over there asked
me, `Is it really as good to be a New York Yankee?' And I thought
about it for a minute and I said, `No, it's better," Rodriguez
A-Rod was a winner in his home debut at Yankee Stadium, thanks
mainly to another New York newcomer.
Javier Vazquez pitched three-hit ball for eight innings in his
first game with the Yankees, Jorge Posada homered and New York won
its seventh straight home opener Thursday with a 3-1 victory over
the Chicago White Sox.
Rodriguez chipped in with two walks and scored a run. He went
hitless in two at-bats, robbed of a hit by third baseman Joe Crede,
who made three fine plays for Chicago.
But mostly A-Rod spent the day enjoying the adulation and
applause from 55,290 fans who got their first chance to welcome
baseball's best all-around player to the Bronx.
Even Yankees owner George Steinbrenner got choked up, his voice
quivering during a pregame television interview as fans in the
bleachers chanted, "Thank you George!"
"I've always been emotional about this team," he told CBS.
"The desire to win was instilled in me by the people."
And it's easy to understand why New York fans are so
appreciative and excited about this season.
The star-studded Yankees trotted out their $183 million team
Thursday, including Vazquez, acquired last December from Montreal.
Wearing David Wells' old No. 33, Vazquez retired his final 13
batters following Paul Konerko's two-out RBI single in the fourth.
He struck out five and walked two in the win, an impressive AL
debut for New York's No. 3 starter.
"He kept us off-balance, being able to locate four pitches the
way he did," said Chicago slugger Frank Thomas, who also
complained about some calls by plate umpire Dan Iassogna.
Still, Vazquez's impressive performance was somewhat
overshadowed just by A-Rod's presence. The right-hander even had to
show identification to get into the ballpark when he arrived.
"That's no problem with me. I'm glad I'm under the radar,"
said Vazquez, who admitted nerves woke him up before 6 a.m. "He's
the best player in the big leagues and everybody should talk about
Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth for his second save in two
Rodriguez took a taxi service to the ballpark because he was
sure he'd get lost otherwise and he doesn't like to drive, anyway.
He showed up early and said he didn't get much sleep after the
Yankees' flight from Florida got in late Wednesday night.
"This whole month, this last 45 days of my life has been pretty
incredible," Rodriguez said. "It's hard to describe. It was
The reigning AL MVP was acquired from Texas in a blockbuster
trade for Alfonso Soriano in mid-February. Rodriguez already had
put on the pinstripes at spring training and during last week's
season-opening series in Tokyo against Tampa Bay, but this was his
first home game at Yankee Stadium.
In the first inning, as always, the Bleacher Creatures rattled
off the roll call, a singsong chant of every Yankee starter's name.
They made their way around the horn to "A-Rod! A-Rod!" and he
immediately picked up the local custom, acknowledging the crowd
with a wave of his glove.
"I've been coming here for a long time," he said. "It's a day
I'll definitely remember."
Rodriguez's first trip to the plate was accompanied by music
from the movie "The Natural." He paused for a moment outside the
batters' box, drew a walk from Scott Schoeneweis (0-1) and scored
on Posada's sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead.
"You just feel blessed and honored to be wearing this uniform
and representing the whole city of New York," Rodriguez said. "It
was pretty emotional."
Posada homered in the sixth, his third of the season.
Gary Sheffield, also making his home debut for the Yankees,
drove in a run with a bases-loaded dribbler up the third-base line
in the first.
After 98 consecutive relief appearances, Schoeneweis
started for the first time since June 25, 2002, with Anaheim. ...
Yankees OF Kenny Lofton, slowed by a tight left thigh, was not in
the starting lineup against Schoeneweis, a left-hander. Manager Joe
Torre also wanted to get DH Ruben Sierra some playing time. ... The
Yankees have won 12 of their last 13 home openers and 18 of 21. ...
The Bleacher Creatures added another name to the roll call,
enthusiastically chanting "Donn-ie Base-ball!" for new hitting
coach and former Yankees captain Don Mattingly.