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A-Rod's HS coach: 'All he wants ... is to play'

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MIAMI (AP)

Rich Hofman did not know what to feel Monday after getting the long-awaited word that Major League Baseball handed New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez a 211-game suspension for performance-enhancing drug use.

By now, he's largely used to the drama surrounding the best player he ever mentored.

Hofman was Rodriguez's coach at Westminster Christian in Miami, up until the player was drafted No. 1 overall by Seattle in 1993. They were close for many years after that, until the three-time Most Valuable Player acknowledged in 2009 that he used PEDs while playing for the Texas Rangers several years earlier.

''One thing about Alex, he's gone through a lot of turmoil personally with family issues and now these two situations,'' Hofman said. ''But you know what? When he gets on the field, he has incredible ability to block all this out and just play the game. That's what makes him special. I guarantee you, he ain't worrying about this once the first inning starts. All he wants to do is play baseball.''

Rodriguez will be able to play while he appeals the suspension.

The A-Rod saga has enveloped Miami since its very beginning. It's where he grew up, where he spent time as a kid hanging out around the now-demolished Orange Bowl, where he has remained active with charitable events and causes. He even is a trustee at the University of Miami - where the on-campus baseball stadium bears his name.

University spokeswoman Margot Winick declined to comment on the Rodriguez suspension or if the school has any plans to remove his name from the baseball park. Miami has some precedent there - the school once had a student-athlete lounge named for Nevin Shapiro, erasing that mention after the rogue former booster was convicted of operating a $930 million Ponzi scheme. Shapiro's actions also sparked an NCAA investigation into Miami athletics.

And not far from the Hurricanes' Alex Rodriguez Park is the site of the now-closed Biogenesis clinic, where the banned PEDs were allegedly being distributed. Rodriguez and 17 other players have now been punished for their association with Biogenesis, and Hofman said he wonders why A-Rod is looked at differently than others.

''Media doesn't like him,'' Hofman said. ''A lot of the people at the Yankees don't like him. The public really doesn't like him.''

Hofman said the downfall in their relationship started around the time that Rodriguez got divorced in 2008, saying ''when that changed and he became involved with the Hollywood gals, he didn't have time for us.''

Still, Hofman said he continues believing that Rodriguez can regain elite form, and that he wants to know how baseball is certain that whatever happened merits such a stiff penalty.

''If he's a user, he deserves to be punished,'' Hofman said. ''What extent, how many games, that's the questions I would have. That's all to be based on information that I don't have. I guess due process will take place and that will determine the final outcome, and the process will also shed a lot of light on what did happen.''

Tagged: Yankees, Alex Rodriguez

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