Jacket, Ralph Lauren Black Label (price on request). 867 Madison Ave., 212-434-8000. Aviator sunglasses, Ray-Ban ($150). Saks Fifth Avenue, 611 Fifth Ave., 212-753-4000

 
  Custom blazer, Gucci ($1,195). 725 Fifth Ave., 212-826-2600. Button down shirt, Brioni ($600). 55 E. 52nd St., 646-624-5600. Printed tie, Hugo by Hugo Boss ($95). Saks Fifth Avenue, 611 Fifth Ave., 212-753-4000. Jeans, Guess ($138). 537 Broadway, 212-226-9545

Alex Rodriguez ordered a black bean salad with balsamic dressing at a bistro in Soho. By Soho, we mean South Howard Avenue in Tampa, where the Yankees retreat for spring training—a place as culturally removed from “south of Houston” as you can get. While Rodriguez, in his cashmere V-neck and designer aviator sunglasses (carefully removed once we are safely ensconced at a table by the window), is exceedingly polite and welcomed warmly by the staff, he looks every bit the displaced New Yorker. (Former Mayor Ed Koch said that, if after six months in NYC, “you find you walk faster, talk faster and think faster, you’re a New Yorker.”)

It’s taken much longer for the Yankees’ venerable third baseman to earn that title, but after enduring years of public scrutiny and tabloid headlines, Rodriguez’s clinch role in securing the team its 27th World Championship finally goaded Gothamites into welcoming him into a careful embrace.

“I do feel like a New Yorker, even more in the past four months,” Rodriguez says. “People in New York are so honest. But I think they understand everything I’ve been through.”

When describing his adopted city (Rodriguez was born in the Dominican enclave of Washington Heights but his family moved to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic when he was four), he uses the L-word a lot, but not in a high-school-crush kind of way. More like a happily married guy who knows the ups and downs of a complicated relationship.

“I’ve been here seven years and I feel like I’ve only gotten to know 30 or 40 percent of the city,” Rodriguez says. “I love the people. I love the museums. I love the Met. I love the art in New York.”

That’s something you may not have known about the ball player. He’s an aficionado of art—and style. And for a guy who never made it to college, he has a lot of respect for people who are educated. “I don’t think envy is the right word but I always thought about all my friends who did go to college and came back with all these amazing stories, and here I was thinking I got the short end of it because I had to go to the minor leagues. But I think it all turned out for the best.”

That said, if he didn’t have a natural talent for hitting balls with a piece of wood, it’s easy to imagine Rodriguez as a businessman. He has the ear of the third richest man in the world, Warren Buffett, who helped him negotiate his contract with the Yankees in 2007, and Rodriguez recently opened Alex Rodriguez Energy Fitness Center in Mexico City. He also owns a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Texas. If the baseball thing doesn’t work out, we wonder, would he use his charm to wheel and deal out on the lot? “Salesman, no. I wouldn’t be a very good car salesman,” he says with a laugh. “For the last 20 years, I’ve lived in a gym five or six days a week and I plan to do that for the rest of my life. Opening the gym was a natural thing for me. It’s something I believe in and it’s real. I like to participate in things that I know about, rather than [those] I know nothing about.”

The gym project dovetails nicely with his recent charitable efforts to promote nutrition and fitness for kids. “It’s part of my current and post-career goals to go around the US and abroad and spread the word about health and fitness. Nutrition and balanced diets start at a young age.”

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