Stadium employee grabs No. 600
Babilonia returns keepsake to A-Rod in exchange for signed bat
NEW YORK -- Frankie Babilonia was just filling in for a co-worker. The Yankee Stadium security guard, who typically patrols center field in Section 000, was slotted to spell a stadium employee in Monument Park for 30 minutes around 1:30 p.m. ET.
But Babilonia, 23, never imagined that those 30 minutes would ultimately unfold into the greatest half-hour of his life.
When Rodriguez launched Shaun Marcum's 85-mph fastball into Monument Park, Babilonia inherited the responsibility of retrieving the slugger's 600th career home run ball and personally returning it to the Yankees' third baseman.
And the security guard was clearly star-struck during his encounter with Rodriguez. Following the Yankees' 5-1 victory over the Blue Jays, Babilonia looked visibly nervous as he received an autographed baseball bat from the slugger.
"I'm at a loss for words," Babilonia said after handing Rodriguez the ball. "It was a lifetime experience. I'll never forget this. Later on in the years, if I ever have children, I'll let them know I was the one that caught the 600 ball and handed it back in."
Rodriguez, however, also felt fortunate. During his postgame press conference, the seventh member of the Major Leagues' 600-home run club acknowledged that the 23-year-old could have snagged the ball, which prompted him to praise Babilonia's altruistic approach.
"I feel very blessed, very lucky that Frankie was so generous," Rodriguez said. "[Media relations director] Jason Zillo had a master plan to try to get the ball back and tie it back into charity somehow."
Babilonia, of course, had no plans to steal the ball. Prior to the game, the security guard's boss informed all of his employees that they would be required to return Rodriguez's milestone ball. And Babilonia planned to follow protocol.
Seventh to 600
"I like doing my job," Babilonia said. "I don't want to put my job at risk at all. My job was to retrieve the ball and return it to my superiors, and that's what I did. I like doing my job. That's what I did."
Once Babilonia collected the ball from Monument Park, he declined to protect it in his pocket, opting instead to carefully carry the historical item with both hands.
Babilonia was ultimately rewarded for his noble endeavor. Facing dozens of reporters after the game, he showcased his autographed bat by A-Rod and said he planned to store his prized piece in a glass case at home.
Until he straightens that out, though, Babilonia is just anticipating the after-effects of his new-found celebrity status.
"My phone is probably blowing up right now," Babilonia said. "I just hope a lot of people aren't at my door, knocking and all of this."
As for his co-worker?
"I guess he's pretty mad," Babilonia said, laughing.
Didier Morais is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.