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Shamed A-Rod thanks supporters at candlelight vigil

ESPN staff
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Alex Rodriguez is fighting a 211-game suspension handed down to him by Major League Baseball © AP
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More than a hundred people have lined the sidewalk along Major League Baseball's Park Avenue offices in support of Alex Rodriguez, as the New York Yankees star appeals his 211-game suspension for violating the sport's drug-testing policy.

On Thursday night, a little more than two hours after the fourth day of his hearing had ended, Rodriguez returned to baseball's midtown Manhattan offices to give thanks to a select few who had given their support from around 9am to 6pm. Rodriguez spent about 25 minutes with 20 of his supporters, who were participating in a candlelight vigil for him, posing for pictures, giving a short speech and signing autographs.

"I talked to my mom, and she was like, 'Get back there and thank those great people'," Rodriguez told two reporters as he was trying to hail a taxi. "I know she told me she wishes she was here. Obviously, it's emotional, people are out there for eight to 10 hours a day, the least I can do is come shake their hands."

On Monday, there were 10 supporters outside of MLB's offices. By Tuesday, there were approximately 70. By Wednesday, around 150.

When Rodriguez exited on Thursday, he went down the line signing autographs for about 10 minutes before getting into a black Lincoln Navigator SUV and heading home.

"It's unexpected," Rodriguez said of the support, "and I feel so grateful to the people, and the whole community. It's obviously tough times, but I'm grateful, and their energy is definitely helping me.

"It started small on Monday, and it's been pretty amazing."

Rodriguez denied that he was paying any of the supporters to be there for him.

Rodriguez gave a speech to the supporters - mostly Latin American - in Spanish, saying: "First of all, my mom's very sad that she's not here right now with us. It's been a very difficult week. Very difficult. But I have a lot of strength, the strength that you guys have given me, the community has given me, you guys have given me a lot of energy to fight this, to fight Major League Baseball. I don't have words to thank you. This is incredible. My family, my kids, they're very appreciative of the help you guys are giving us, and I feel very proud to be Dominican today."

Hispanics Across America president Fernando Mateo has been leading the charge on Rodriguez's behalf. Mateo got the word out to the community that the group would be supporting Rodriguez throughout his appeal.

The supporters often wear Rodriguez's No. 13 jerseys or T-shirts and chant "Alex, querido, el pueblo esta contigo!" which means, "Alex, the people are behind you." They waive flags from places like the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Columbia and Puerto Rico. They also hold signs, including one that reads "(Yankees president) Randy Levine is the Devil." For many, English is their second language.

Mateo says that he just wants a fair hearing, because Mateo doesn't believe Rodriguez is being treated fairly by MLB commissioner Bud Selig and Levine (though he does admit that the Levine criticism is merely well thought-out speculation).

On Thursday, Rodriguez's lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, began cross-examining Biogenesis founder Anthony Bosch. It is unknown if Rodriguez will testify. Friday is the last day that the two parties have scheduled for the hearing. It is extremely unlikely that a verdict will be reached by that, time, however.

It is unknown when the next round of hearings will resume, though the New York Post reported it will most likely be the week of October 14. When the hearing ends, arbitrator Fredric Horowitz will have 25 days to make his final ruling on the suspension.

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