NEW YORK -- After everything he's encountered, Alex Rodriguez broke into a big smile -- all the way around the bases.
Rodriguez homered for his 3,000th career hit and the New York Yankees beat Detroit 7-2 Friday night, the highlight so far in what's become a resurgent season for the disgraced slugger.
"A year ago today, I didn't know if this day would come," he said. "There were some really dark days."
"Sometimes, I never thought I'd get the uniform back on," he added.
Out of baseball last season while serving a drug suspension, Rodriguez wasted no time, connecting in the first inning on a first-pitch, 95 mph fastball from Tigers ace Justin Verlander.
"I was happy to get it out of the way," Rodriguez said.
The solo homer made him the 29th player in major league history to reach 3,000 hits. He was the first to do it since Yankees great Derek Jeter homered from the very same batter's box in 2011.
"It's a magical number," Rodriguez said. "I'm very happy to be in the club."
A-Rod turns 40 next month. The three-time AL MVP launched his 13th homer of the season and has enjoyed a productive year as a designated hitter after returning from his suspension.
Rodriguez hit his 667th career home run after beginning the day with a .299 lifetime average in 21 seasons.
"He's obviously been very open about how appreciative he is to get the opportunity to come back and play, and a year ago he wasn't sure what the future held for him," teammate Brett Gardner said.
"He's been a lot of fun to be around and he's been having a lot of fun, and I think we've been playing pretty well and he's been playing pretty well, and it's a lot of fun to be a part of," he said.
Gardner and Didi Gregorius also homered as the Yankees won their third in a row. Detroit has lost four of six.
With the crowd at Yankee Stadium standing in anticipation, Rodriguez sent a high drive to right field. He held onto the bat as he took a few steps toward first base, and outfielder J.D. Martinez bumped into the wall as he backed up.
Fans roared as the ball sailed a half-dozen rows into the seats.
The homer was Rodriguez's fifth in 35 at-bats off Verlander.
"It's early, I wasn't really sure if he'd be swinging first pitch or not. In retrospect, I think he was trying to get 3,000 out of the way," Verlander said.
"I don't ever want to give up a hit. So I definitely don't want to be a part of the history that way," he added.
Retrieving the souvenir ball might be harder for Rodriguez than hitting it. Zack Hample, a 37-year-old who describes himself as a professional home run ball catcher, wound up with the prized souvenir.
Hample originally told the Yankees that he had no intention of giving it back. He watched the ninth inning with team president Randy Levine and chief operating officer Lonn Trost, and said he's considering what to do.
"Now, I'm thinking about it," he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
"There's no right thing to do," he said. "I want to enjoy the moment."
A day earlier, Hample tweeted that Rodriguez "deserves favors from no one, least of all a fan."
Rodriguez mentioned the fan who caught Jeter's home run ball for his 3,000th hit. That man was all too eager to return it to the former Yankees star.
"Where's Jeet's guy? That's the guy I needed," Rodriguez said. "I wasn't so lucky."
Rodriguez pointed to the crowd a couple of times and blew a kiss to his two daughters sitting behind the backstop after crossing the plate. He was greeted by Mark Teixeira and other teammates between the plate and the dugout, and got a big hug from manager Joe Girardi.
The only other players to hit a homer for No. 3,000 were Jeter and Wade Boggs.
"I'm enjoying this season as much as any," Rodriguez said.
Adam Warren (5-4) gave up two runs in a career-high eight innings. He beat Detroit for the second time this season.
Verlander (0-1) lost in his second start of the season and the 300th of his career. He began the season on the disabled list with a strained right triceps, and made his season debut last weekend.
Verlander gave up six runs and 10 hits in 6 2/3 innings. He fell to 0-4 at the new Yankee Stadium.
Miguel Cabrera's streak of consecutive games with an RBI ended at six.
Tigers: C Alex Avila (sore left knee) is traveling with the team on its road trip, catching bullpen sessions. When he's ready, he'll go on a minor league rehab assignment.
Yankees: OF Mason Williams jammed his right shoulder trying to get back into first base on a pickoff. He was examined and no further tests are scheduled.
Tigers: RHP Alfredo Simon (7-3, 2.58 ERA) has done extremely well against A-Rod. Rodriguez is 0 for 7 in his career vs. Simon, striking out twice and walking once.
Yankees: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (5-2, 5.12) will start on three days' rest for the first time in his career. He threw just 36 pitches in his previous game, giving up eight runs while getting only two outs at Miami.
Philadelphia Phillies hire Bobby Dickerson for second stint as infield coach
The Philadelphia Phillies have hired 56-year-old Bobby Dickerson as their infield coach for a second time. Dickerson was the Phils' infield coach in 2019 and spent the past two seasons with the San Diego Padres.
Milwaukee Brewers coach Ed Sedar announces retirement after 30 years with team
Longtime Milwaukee Brewers coach Ed Sedar has retired after a 30-year career with the organization.
Major League Baseball work stoppage almost certain on Dec. 2
Baseball's ninth work stoppage and first in 26 years appears almost certain to start Dec. 2, freezing the free-agent market and threatening the start of spring training in February.
World Series 2021: Everything you need to know about Atlanta Braves vs. Houston Astros
Didn't see a Houston-Atlanta title matchup coming? Don't worry, you aren't alone. Here's what will decide which team wins it all.
World Series 2021: Ranking all 52 players in Atlanta Braves-Houston Astros Fall Classic
Is the Astros' Carlos Correa the best player in this Fall Classic? Where does Braves ace Charlie Morton rank? Kiley McDaniel has the definitive list.
2021 MLB playoffs: Schedules, postseason bracket, analysis and updates
All the latest information about the teams, storylines and highlights of the 2021 MLB postseason, from the start of October through the World Series.