Rodriguez, who will turn 40 next month and was banned the entire 2014 season for violating Major League Baseball’s doping policy, becomes the 29th player ever to reach 3,000 hits; it was his 13th home run of the season.
“A year ago today I didn’t know if this day would ever come,” he said after the 7-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers.
“There were some really dark days. I got to tell you I’m really grateful for Joe Girardi. He’s given me every opportunity. I’m grateful. I’m extremely appreciative to the Yankees for giving me an opportunity to put the uniform back on.”
A-Rod’s return was primarily a business decision, as the team owed him $64m for the last three years of a contract that had made him MLB’s highest paid player.
But Rodriguez has made the Bronx Bombers happy to have him as he has exceeded all expectations at the plate and helped the Yankees (37-30) contend in the American League East.
After clobbering the first pitch he saw from Detroit’s Justin Verlander, team-mates greeted him with hugs in front of the dugout as the 45,000 crowd roared their approval.
Girardi said: “We’re very excited for him, happy for him. The guys, you could see the emotion.
“I just think it shows you how much our guys pull for Alex. He’s worked hard and never stopped believing in himself. People get second and third chances and people really pull for people to do well and get off the carpet and respond and be productive and that’s what he’s doing,”
Yankees catcher Brian McCann was thrilled to have witnessed Rodriguez moving up to fourth on both the all-time home run and RBI lists.
He said: “What an amazing accomplishment. He’s one of the best players to ever put on a uniform, to ever pick up a bat and play the game. He’s one of the best players to ever play the game.”