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A-Rod's Park Avenue supporters speak out

Alex Rodriguez has enjoyed increasing support outside of 245 Park Ave. this week. AP Photo/David Karp

NEW YORK -- Throughout the past two days, supporters of Alex Rodriguez have repeatedly chanted "Alex, querido, el pueblo esta contigo!" outside Major League Baseball’s Park Avenue offices in midtown Manhattan.

Translation: "Alex, the people are behind you."

Yes, the Yankees third baseman may be disliked -- even hated -- by some, but certainly not the hundreds of Latinos who stand inside a barricade for as many as nine hours -- from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. -- wearing No. 13 jerseys, holding signs and flags, continuously chanting and showing their support.

A-Rod is currently appealing his 211-game suspension for violating MLB’s performance-enhancing drug policy.

"Today was a huge turnout," said Hispanics Across America president Fernando Mateo, the leader of the supporters. "I didn’t know what to expect, but it was really surprising. I guess that’s because of all the publicity we’ve gotten."

Supporters began coming on Tuesday; there were roughly 70 then. But by Wednesday, that number had doubled.

"I had a lot of people calling me in the community asking me, 'What are we gonna do about A-Rod?'" Mateo said.

"I found it compelling once I started reading the stories about how he is being singled out and unjustly being prosecuted by a man [MLB commissioner Bud Selig] who should've been fired many years ago, and how [Yankees president Randy Levine] has basically been undermining trying to get out of his contract.

"As a Hispanic, I’m not going to stand for this. I’m not going to let them treat A-Rod like a criminal, when he’s one of the finest people you've ever met."

Mateo, who does believe A-Rod should be punished "fairly like everyone else" if he is found guilty of wrongdoing, said he was able to get such a large group of people together because of his connections.

"I have a network of people. I am the president of HAA." Mateo said.

Through his connections, Mateo was able to get donations for free "Support A-Rod" t-shirts, pizza and water.

Despite reports to the contrary, Mateo emphatically said that he was not being paid by A-Rod or his attorney, Joseph Tacopina.

"I’m a man of integrity." he said. "Nobody buys me. I’m doing this pro bono."

In any case, Rodriguez certainly appreciates the support. Before heading home the past two days, A-Rod has signed autographs and posed for pictures with his supporters. On Wednesday, he did so for a good 10 minutes.

"People are star-struck," said HAA executive director Sergio Rodriguez. "Two of the girls were like, 'Oh my God! He shook my hand!' That's worth hanging out for. A-Rod stops, he signs.

"If he's so bad, why is he here?"

The supporters hold flags from places like the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Colombia and Puerto Rico.

For many, English is their second language. Those who spend their entire days outside 245 Park Ave. say they have flexible schedules as independent contractors, or they have the day off.

"We’re supporting Alex. We don’t think what they’re doing to him is fair," said Myra Jimenez, a sample maker in the fashion industry. "We want justice."

"It’s going well," said Johan Estrella, a 26-year-old student. "According to what people are saying, he came out happy yesterday. I hope everything works out well for him. ... The support is good because he needs to know that Latinos are united with him.

"If he [cheated] give him a suspension, but they should not kick him out."

Said Steven Castillo, a full-time student who also works at a recruiting firm in the city: "A-Rod has a huge fanbase and Dominicans are proud of what we produce and to show support for someone who has done so much for baseball and our country. It's only right that we give back."

ESPN Deportes' Adriano Torres contributed to this story.