Alex Rodriguez wants to be your Facebook friend
Alex Rodriguez is your newest friend - on Facebook, anyway.
The All-Star Yankee said on Thursday he's going to start using the social network to better connect with his fans and, presumably, soften the prickly public image he's known for.
"I want my fans to know how much I appreciate them," Rodriguez told ESPNNewYork.com on Thursday. "I have always been pretty private, but I like that I'm getting the chance to interact with my fans on a more personal level."
He went on: "The posts on my page will come from me. Obviously, my time is limited and I have people to assist with certain things, but I will have an active role in all of the content on my fan page."
Rodriguez, 36, quietly joined the social network in September 2011 but didn't use it. He only started posting updates last Friday, when a photo of him signing autographs quickly generated almost 5,000 "likes."
Other posts have included candid photos of Rodriguez with his two daughters and other mundane, everyday situations, and said that his updates will focus on "issues that are important to me such as education, a few inspirational messages."
As of late Thursday, A-Rod had already amassed more than 720,000 followers - a respectable showing for a Yankee. (Teammate Nick Swisher has nearly 1.5 million followers on Twitter.)
The third baseman has been mocked as an awkward and coarse public figure. The 2007 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and Colorado Rockies, for example, A-Rod interrupted Game 4 by annoucing through rom his agent that he was opting out of his contract to negotiate a new one. (He then signed a 10-year, $275 million deal.)
However, his new fan-focused social media strategy may help to endear him to the public, said Wayne McDonnell, professor of sports management at NYU.
"I think it's going to humanize him, and that probably the best thing," McDonnell said. "It's the evolution of A-Rod, where now he's warmly embracing social media and using it as a vehicle for people to see who he really is, and for him to try to be more cordial with people."
McDonnell added: "This could make people realize he's not that bad of a guy."
Now that A-Rod has embraced social media, we have a few tips for him:
1. Google "Anthony Weiner Twitter" ... and learn what not to do.
2. Leave the "Relationship Status" part of your profile alone. It would be too hard to keep up.
3. At all costs, avoid a Charlie Sheen-esque meltdown if you have a bad week.
4 Friendster's still around. Why not give that a try?
Follow reporter Tim Herrera on Twitter: @tim_herrera