By The Associated Press
Hometown hero Alex Rodriguez played in Miami for the first time since high school, while the scenic waterfront site of exhibition games for more than eight decades hosted its final game in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Adam Dunn homered and the Cincinnati Reds beat the Tampa Bay Rays 6-3 on Friday in the final game at Al Lang Field.
"I'm kind of a nostalgic freak," said Rays manager Joe Maddon, who took in his first game at Al Lang after hitchhiking to St. Petersburg from Tampa, where his college team was playing in the early 1970s.
"Believe me, you can't find a better setting for a spring training game to be played. For those who never had the chance to encounter it, it's two bad because this truly is the essence of spring training."
A different type of nostalgia reigned across the state.
For the first time since A-Rod was a senior at Westminster Christian High in 1993, he finally got to play in his hometown.
With 150 of his friends and family in the crowd -- a "world record" player ticket buy, he said -- Rodriguez and his New York Yankees visited the Florida Marlins on Friday in their next-to-last exhibition game of the spring. Dozens of fans swarmed the Yankees' dugout in A-Rod's No. 13 jerseys, most imploring him in Spanish to sign something for them.
"Coming up here and being a part of South Florida high school sports, potentially going to play football and baseball at the University of Miami, it's nice to come full circle," said Rodriguez, the reigning AL MVP after hitting .314 with 54 home runs and 156 RBIs last season. "I never really thought I would get this opportunity, being in the American League."
With interleague play, chances like these are hardly uncommon.
But Rodriguez has always missed out on Miami trips -- until now.
"This is Alex's home," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who, like Rodriguez, lives in South Florida during the winter. "I went and saw a Heat game this year, I was driving back, and there was a big billboard that said, 'Congratulations Alex on the MVP.' This town has really embraced Alex and Alex has really embraced this town."
Rodriguez was the fourth Yankee to bat Friday night, and got a huge roar when the starting lineups were announced -- incidentally, dwarfing the ovation any Marlins player got before the game.
He delivered for his faithful, too, with a 407-foot home run in the fifth inning off Florida starter Andrew Miller -- earning him a standing ovation in a stadium almost entirely filled with Yankees fans.
As for baseball in St. Petersburg, the next time a major league game is played at the spot where the field currently stands, it may well be the Rays' new regular-season home.
Rays owner Stuart Sternberg revealed plans last fall to replace Tropicana Field with a $450 million open-air ballpark here that partly would be paid for by the sale and development of the domed stadium that opened in 1990 -- eight years before the Rays played their first game.
Under current plans, the team would pay about a third of the cost of building the 34,000-seat stadium that would open on the Al Lang site in 2012.
In other news, Arizona Diamondbacks left-hander Doug Davis was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
"We don't know much, other than he does have thyroid cancer," team president Derrick Hall said in a telephone interview. "It's saddening. It was a complete surprise to the entire organization, and to him."
Jeff Conine signed a one-day contract with the Florida Marlins so he could retire as a member of the team he helped win two World Series.
Chicago White Sox third baseman Joe Crede missed an exhibition game against the Texas Rangers because of a bruised left ankle. Crede said he hoped to recover in time for the season opener.
San Diego center fielder Jim Edmonds was placed on the 15-day disabled list, meaning he'll miss his first opening day with the Padres.
In spring training games:
Pirates 3, Twins 1
At Fort Myers, Fla., Minnesota's Francisco Liriano held Pittsburgh to one run in five innings before learning he will start the season in the minor leagues.
Manager Ron Gardenhire said he wanted the left-handed Liriano to get at least two starts to improve his conditioning and his fastball. At that point, the team will consider calling him up.
Orioles 4, Mets 3
At Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Orlando Hernandez gave up a run and four hits in five innings in his quest to win the fifth spot in New York's rotation.
Baltimore's Daniel Cabrera allowed two runs and three hits in five innings. He walked five and struck out two.