ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. Alex Rodriguez figured that one of his prodigious home runs would provide the historic first test for major league baseball's week-old instant replay system.
"There's probably 800 players in the big leagues. The odds of my being in some controversy are probably 2-to-1," the New York Yankees slugger said Wednesday night, after his ninth-inning homer against the Tampa Bay Rays was upheld in the first use of video to review boundary calls.
"It's just funny," added Rodriguez, a lightning rod for headlines on and off the field throughout his career. "Somehow I find myself in those situations all the time."
Rodriguez hit a long, two-run shot down the left field line that went over the foul pole and struck one of the catwalks that support the roof at Tropicana Field. He had no doubts that the ball was fair.
Third base umpire Brian Runge immediately ruled it a home run, sparking protests from Rays catcher Dioner Navarro and manager Joe Maddon.
"I had the best view because I was at home plate. I saw what Brian saw, and for sure I knew this was going to get replayed," Rodriguez said of his 549th career homer, which moved him ahead of Mike Schmidt for sole possession of 12th place on the all-time list. "I saw the way Navarro jumped and then Maddon jumped out of the dugout and I said, 'Here we go."'
The umpires, all feeling it was a homer, convened behind the pitcher's mound at the urging of Maddon, who said the foul poles in the domed stadium are not tall enough to tell if balls hit that high are fair or foul.
Crew chief Charlie Reliford led a procession to the review room near the visiting team dugout, where it took 2 minutes, 15 seconds to back the onfield call.
"I'm the first player. Next time I'm going stealth and go under the radar screen," Rodriguez said. "It's very fitting I'm involved. I was just glad we got the right call."
A-Rod was denied a homer May 21 against Baltimore when a ball he hit over the fence at Yankee Stadium was incorrectly called an RBI double. It was one of a string of home run calls blown by umpires, leaving some people calling for instant replay.
"They handled it in a very good way. I still don't know if it was fair or foul," Maddon said. "I don't know if it was conclusive or not. But nevertheless, they went through the process. It did not take that long."
Reliford said the replay confirmed what Runge saw.
"It was not inconclusive," the crew chief told a pool reporter. "It was conclusive that Brian's call was correct."
The umpires agreed to look at the video after Maddon asked plate umpire Greg Gibson to discuss the call with Runge.
"We all believed it was a home run, but since the technology is in place we made the decision to use the technology and go look at the replays," Reliford said, adding that the crew watched the play several times.
"If there had been no argument, obviously we wouldn't have because all four of us believed the call was correct on the field," Reliford said. "Because he disputed it, and it was very close, and now the technology is in place, we used it."
Relief pitcher Troy Percival had no beef with Runge's call. He was more upset about the previous pitch, which he thought should have been called a third strike instead of a ball that extended A-Rod's at-bat.
"It was clearly fair, but after looking at the replay, I wouldn't have known what to call, to be honest with you," Percival said. "The replay made it more cloudy for me."
Reliford said the process, which was put in place last Thursday, worked "exactly like they trained us it would go," adding it was a group decision.
"Technically, it's up to the crew chief. But when the ship sinks, everyone drowns. We operate as a crew, we do everything as a crew, and we make decisions as a crew," Reliford said. "If it comes down to a split decision, then the crew chief is going to have to decide which decision is most likely correct."
The historic moment overshadowed the Yankees' 8-4 victory over the AL East-leading Rays, whose lead over the Boston Red Sox was trimmed to three games. Rodriguez finished 3-for-4 with four RBIs.
"That was kind of cool, seeing that for the first time," Tampa Bay's Carlos Pena said. "We all feel good that the umpires tried all they could to make sure they got the call right. I think that's a step forward."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi agreed.
"That's the type of home runs it's going to be a lot of times. The kind that are real high or near a foul pole or where it's fan friendly," Girardi said. "Obviously they got the call right, and that's the most important thing. I've said that all along."