He earns his stripes in New York, but Alex Rodriguez is still safe at home in Miami.
Admit it, you'd love to be Alex Rodriguez. Who wouldn't? He's a handsome, superstar athlete with a cool nickname, an eye-popping contract, a deal with Armani, and a gorgeous wife. He's taken Oval Office meetings with Presidents Clinton and Bush and played poker with Michael Jordan, golf with Tiger Woods and Bill Gates, and third base alongside his idol, Cal Ripken Jr. At home he's got a Picasso, a Chagall, and two Gold Glove Awards. He's also the reigning American League MVP, just appeared in his sixth All-Star Game, and, here's the kicker, he's the second youngest starter on the most famous baseball team on the planet, the New York Yankees.

It would appear that Alex Rodriguez has all of the touchstones of a man who's going places. But this life wasn't handed to the son of Dominican immigrants like a trust fund. It was hard-earned on lumpy fields in the Dominican Republic and later on the sun-drenched diamonds of Miami. If Hemingway hadn't gotten there first, the book of Alex Rodriguez's life could easily be titled, To Have and Have Not.

His father, Victor, a former shoe store owner and former catcher in the Dominican pro league, introduced his youngest son to baseball at the age of four. His mother, Lourdes, taught him the value of hard work, taking two jobs to support the family after she and Victor divorced when Alex was nine. While helping his mother count tips from her waitress job, Rodriguez recalls staring at his Cal Ripken Jr. poster and dreaming of becoming a big-league shortstop.

With his father's skills and his mother's work ethic, Rodriguez was soon impressing scouts from across the country, and at the tender age of 17, he was drafted first overall by the Seattle Mariners in the 1993 MLB amateur draft. After 82 minor-league games - barely enough time to get to know his peach-fuzzed teammates - Rodriguez made his major-league debut less than one month before his 19th birthday.