After 22 years and 2,784 MLB games, Alex Rodriguez laced up his cleats for the final time with the New York Yankees on Friday night against the Tampa Bay Rays, going 1-for-4 with an RBI in a 6-3 win.

Rodriguez got the Yankees on the board in the first inning with an RBI double off Rays starter Chris Archer, which scored Brett Gardner from first base to tie the game at 1-1:

Mike Petriello of provided the Statcast information on A-Rod’s first-inning hit:

There was some ominous weather before the game, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post noted:

Even though Rodriguez was not done after his first at-bat, New Yorkers are a notoriously impatient group of people. USA Today‘s Ted Berg noted how restless the fans were getting:

Rodriguez’s first-inning double would be the extent of his contributions to the Yankees’ win. He grounded out in the fourth inning, struck out in the fifth andin his final career at-batgrounded out to end the seventh inning.

However, that at-bat would not be the last time fans saw Rodriguez in the game. With the Yankees leading 6-3 in the ninth inning, manager Joe Girardi put A-Rod in at third base to make sure he was part of the action one last time.

After Yankees closer Dellin Betances struck out Mikie Mahtook for the first out of the ninth inning, Ronald Torreyes replaced Rodriguez so he could get a proper standing ovation from the New York faithful.

Pinstripe Alley captured a wonderful moment between the two Yankees whose careers are ending in 2016:

ESPN’s Marly Rivera captured an overhead image of the Yankees dugout after Girardi pulled Rodriguez:

After the final out, Wallace Matthews of noted Rodriguez went back onto the Yankee Stadium field to take some dirt as a souvenir. 

The start of the game was delayed for nearly an hour, prompting NBC Sports’ Craig Calcaterra to offer this possible explanation:

Before Friday’s game, some of Rodriguez’s former teammates released statements to congratulate the 41-year-old on a historic career. 

Derek Jeter, who had a season-long retirement tour in 2014, had this to say about Rodriguez, per Teddy Mitrosilis of Fox Sports:

I’ve spent 22 years playing against, playing with and watching Alex from afar, and there are two things that stand out to me the most: the conversations we had when we were young — hoping for the opportunity to play at the Major League level and then somehow finding a way to stick around — and the championship we won together in 2009. That was a season everyone on that team can cherish. What people don’t realize is how much time, effort and work that Alex put in on a daily basis. He lives and breathes baseball. I know it will be difficult for him to not be on the field, but I’m sure he will continue to give back to the game. Congrats, Alex.

Former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera walked onto the field with Rodriguez’s two daughters, as Pinstripe Alley showed:

It was not an easy road for Rodriguez or the Yankees to reach this moment.

A-Rod announced this past Sunday that he would play his last game Friday and the Yankees would unconditionally release him from his contract, at which point he would work as a special adviser with the team through 2017, per Bryan Hoch of

However, Girardi did not play Rodriguez in Boston on Tuesday and gave him one pinch-hit appearance Wednesday before finally putting him in the lineup Thursday and letting him hit third for his final game Friday.

Girardi managed to make Rodriguez a sympathetic figure, telling reporters Wednesday that he didn’t want to make A-Rod the focus, per Maureen Mullen of USA Today:

But I believe that (I) have a responsibility to the organization, to the team, to the players in that room to put out what (I) feel is the best lineup and try to win every game. Also (I) have a responsibility to baseball because there are teams fighting for (playoff) spots here and you have to do what you feel is the best, and that becomes difficult.

No one is going to deny that Rodriguez has been awful this year. He was hitting .199/.247/.348 coming into Friday, but Girardi is just two years removed from playing Jeter every day in the No. 2 spot when he had a .304 on-base percentage. Girardi was hearing it from the New York fans before the game, per Mike Axisa of CBS Sports:

There has been plenty of negativity regarding Girardi’s handling of Rodriguez, but Friday was a moment to celebrate. 

Regardless of any personal feelings fans have toward Rodriguez, he was one of Major League Baseball’s defining stars for two decades. He walks away from the game with three American League MVP awards, 696 home runs, 14 All-Star appearances and one World Series title. 

Rodriguez’s career did not end with the monumental bang that every superstar athlete hopes to achieve before walking away, but his imprint on the sport from the time the Seattle Mariners made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 1993 draft to his final at-bat can’t be understated.

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