Fact Or Fiction??

By Linda Robertson
Updated: May 1, 2009

MIAMI — Who is Alex Rodriguez?

The one who stands accused of using performance-enhancing drugs in high school and as a New York Yankee, two months after he was so disingenuous in his public confessionals about steroids?

Or the one who was an earnest, diligent teenager, according to his high school coach, Rich Hofman?

Is A-Rod the needy, phony player nicknamed ”A-Fraud” by his teammates, who also called him a derogatory term for a female dog’s breasts, ”B—h T–s,” for his plump pectoral muscles?

Or is he a good-hearted, insecure man who made some poor decisions?

An untrustworthy guy who cheated on his wife and at baseball? Miami philanthropist? Or the egomaniac who kissed a mirror image of himself in a magazine photo?

A-Rod: Liar or victim?

It’s tough to feel sympathy for him anymore, yet some of us do, despite his refusal to tell the whole truth.

Maybe it’s the big, green eyes, the hip surgery, the paparazzi, the revelation that the superstar with the $25 million salary was even disliked at Hooters, where he was a cheap tipper.

What else can befall A-Rod?

Hofman’s faith in Rodriguez has never wavered, not even Thursday, when another unflattering portrait of Miami’s one-time golden boy emerged. A book on A-Rod by Sports Illustrated writer Selena Roberts comes out Monday, and The New York Daily News reported some juicy bits. Roberts broke the story in February that Rodriguez flunked a steroid test in 2003.

Who is Alex Rodriguez? I don’t think he knows, and he doesn’t want you to know he doesn’t know.

But Hofman knows him better than most, has known him since he was a 15-year-old at Westminster Christian School. He coached Rodriguez and three other future major leaguers to the national No. 1 ranking in 1992. He predicted that Rodriguez would be the No. 1 draft pick and greatest player of his day.

Steroids in high school? Hofman scoffs.

”It’s totally unsubstantiated, totally false, all innuendo, a vendetta,” said Hofman, 64, retired after winning 10 state titles at Westminster Christian and at Westminster Academy in Broward. “We had a close-knit group and in all our conversations, steroids never came up. These kids loved to play baseball. We had a rigorous program and that’s why we were good — we earned it.”

In the book, a former teammate said Rodriguez used steroids (his connection was a dog kennel owner) and Hofman knew it. Another student said Hofman’s son David, who played football with Rodriguez, saw Rodriguez use steroids.

”Totally bogus,” Hofman said.

PROTEIN SHAKES

The only things Hofman saw his players ingest were protein shakes. Those, plus weight training and a growth spurt would explain how Rodriguez gained 25 pounds between 10th and 11th grade, and improved his bench press from 100 pounds to 310. Roberts and Jose Canseco find that leap in strength suspicious.

”I worked out with him and he was very strong for his age and that caught my eye,” Canseco said Thursday.

Canseco wrote in his book that he later put Rodriguez in touch with a steroid dealer.

Hofman said Rodriguez wasn’t the deceitful type.

”Other than the usual tomfoolery, they hung out at Doug Mientkiewicz’s house,” Hofman said.

How does one reconcile Hofman’s belief in Rodriguez with the A-Rod who admitted he took steroids in 2001-2003, but also made the ridiculous claim that he didn’t know what he was taking at the time except that “they weren’t Tic-Tacs”?

He said he stopped after he left the Rangers, but Yankees teammates disagree and nicknamed him for his ample pecs, a condition called gynecomastia often caused by steroids. Watch the YouTube clip of a shirtless A-Rod on the Letterman show. An unnamed player said A-Rod and Kevin Brown were seen with human growth hormone in 2004.

‘Alex called me and said, `Coach, I can swear on a stack of Bibles that there’s nothing to this,’ ” Hofman said.

`BIGGEST FAN’

“I feel like a father whose child hasn’t made the best choices. But I’m still his biggest fan.”

Who is A-Rod? The best player in baseball?

Or the one who is rapidly becoming the least likable?

”You’re never going to see the real guy, although it would be nice if people could,” Hofman said. “Deep down inside Alex is a good person.”

He also is 33, many layers removed from what he was as a kid in Miami.