The apprehensive 13-year-old approached Keith Hernandez. Like any other kid meeting his idol, a "super nervous" feeling rushed though his body. Finally, with his courage up, the youngster addressed the player he had spent so many nights watching on TV.
"You are my favorite player," Alex Rodriguez recalled saying. "I hope to be drafted one day."
The funny thing about that chance meeting in 1988 is that Hernandez remembers it, too. Hernandez, the former MVP, was rehabbing a hamstring injury at Florida International University when this kid -- who had yet to hit any of his 640 homers -- walked up to him.
What sticks out most in Hernandez's mind was not Rodriguez's "imposing physique," but his intensity.
"He was very intent to listen," said Hernandez, now an analyst on the Mets' network, SNY. "He asked questions."
Rodriguez has shown some chameleon tendencies during his career, claiming this place or that place was always his dream spot. But, in reality, on the eve of the latest Subway Series, Rodriguez knows that it wasn't Texas, despite the money, or the Yankees, despite the history, that had tugged at his heart.
It was the Mets.