19 March 2004

Who is Baseball's Greatest Current Ambassador?

Alex Rodriguez

Baseball has many ambassadors, of course. Not all of them actually help very much in their ambassadorships (this means you, Bud). Each of the players, in his own way and within his own sphere of influence, serves as an ambassador for baseball to at least the region in which he plays and probably in the area where he lives or grew up.

Several players have been the Face of Baseball for a time: Don Mattingly in the ‘80s, Cal Ripken in the early ‘90s, Sosa and McGwire in the late ‘90s. But who holds the torch now? Who is worthy?

You guessed it: Alex.

Is there a more recognizable face than that of Alex Rodriguez in all of the major leagues today? Sure, Barry Bonds is awesome. But he’s old, surly and possibly about as natural as the breasts on Baywatch. (I don’t actually believe that, but there are enough people who do to make his candidacy a moot point.)

Albert Pujols? Fantastic player, but he’s also foreign born, and is probably lying about his age. Derek Jeter? A great player, who does a lot of charity work, but spends too much time on the gossip pages in the New York Daily News and is too controversial a figure in some circles because of his defense, (or rather the apparent lack thereof).

So who’s left? A-Rod. He’s the best player in the league, playing on the best team in history, in the biggest city with a baseball team. Whether he plays the hot corner or moves back over to shortstop, he’ll remain highly visible. He’s attractive, articulate, playing in the prime of his career. He’s American, but with a Hispanic heritage, so he reaches out to more extensive markets than one player normally can. Plus, his trade to the Yankees netted him to rights to use their logos in any of his own advertising and publicity campaigns, so you’ll be seeing a lot more of him everywhere.

And when the Yankees win the 2004 World Series, Mr. Ambassador will get to meet Mr. President. What a photo-op.

You can read the opinions of some of my colleagues here.

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