It was November of 2013. The baseball season had been over for a month but, for Alex Rodriguez, the drama was only beginning.

The Yankees third baseman had been implicated in the Biogenesis scandal, found guilty of taking performance enhancing drugs—again!—without having officially failed a drug test. He was whacked with an unprecedented 211-game suspension by then commissioner Bud Selig.

For A-Rod, who was born in New York City but grew up in Miami, there was only one sane thing to do: head to South Florida, where the climate would presumably be warmer toward him.

“I wanted him to go to a place where people wouldn’t be as angry,” recalls Ron Berkowitz, who had signed on as Rodriguez’s publicist earlier that year and quickly became a friend and confidant.

That weekend, the two decided to travel north to Tallahassee, for a football game between Rodriguez’ beloved Miami Hurricanes and the archrival Florida State Seminoles. A-Rod, being A-Rod, chose to attend the game in full ’Canes regalia. And of course, to spend some time pre-game among hard-drinking ’Noles fans in a bar across from Doak Campbell Stadium.

“All of a sudden this kid starts walking over to us,’’ Berkowitz says. “He’s wearing a Florida State jersey and a Red Sox hat. I mean, our two biggest enemies, so to speak. I’m thinking, ‘Oh, fuck me, dude. This is going to be a fucking disaster.’ It was like the culmination of how bad all this was going to be.”

Somehow, the kid made his way to Rodriguez’s table, and got right into A-Rod’s face. And his speech did not start out promisingly. “I hate the Yankees and I hate the ’Canes,’’ he said, as Berkowitz, and presumably Rodriguez, inhaled and braced for the worst. “But I give you all the credit in the world for coming up here into enemy territory,’’ the kid proclaimed. “Sitting with us, hanging out and wearing a ’Canes shirt. I respect that. It’s really cool.’’

“At that moment I thought, ‘Maybe this isn’t going to be as bad as we thought,’’’ Berkowitz says. “And I think it was an eye-opener for Alex, too. I think he started to see that it was still possible for him to make good.”

But neither Rodriguez nor Berkowitz—nor Rob Manfred, who had run baseball’s prosecution of A-Rod and succeeded Selig as commissioner, nor Hal Steinbrenner, the Yankees owner who still had $64 million worth of checks to write for a player who had accused his team doctor of malpractice, nor Brian Cashman, the GM who a few months earlier admitted he was afraid to talk to his own DH for fear of getting sued—could ever have predicted how good.

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