The most curious sideshow in baseball descended upon FirstEnergy Stadium, a 9,000-seat, single-deck Double-A park surrounded by the green-topped hills of the Appalachians. Monday night, before packed bleachers in stifling humidity, Alex Rodriguez wore the grays of the Double-A Trenton Thunder for a game he would call "by far the best I’ve felt and played" in his weather-interrupted, controversy-filled rehabilitation assignment.

When his two-run homer boomed through the sky here, a fifth-inning blast that represented his most encouraging baseball moment in nine months, the crowd here reacted with a mixture of revulsion and awe. Rodriguez is, after all, baseball’s active home run leader. It is a fact often obscured by his current state, a soon-to-be 38-year-old with a pair of surgically-repaired hips, facing a potential suspension by Major League Baseball amid frigid relations with his employers in The Bronx.

Facing the Fightin’ Phils of the Eastern League, playing in his first game above Class-A, Rodriguez went 2-for-4 for his first multi-hit game of the year. He played seven innings at third base. He expressed encouragement in both his legs and his bat.

"Today we checked a lot of boxes," Rodriguez said in the clubhouse following the 6-5 Thunder victory, as his temporary teammates picked at a spread of Chipotle burritos purchased by their well-paid third baseman. He added, "The ball is definitely coming off the bat different."

Though he professed himself "about six days away" from a big-league return, the exact length of time left on his rehab stint, doubts remain about his on-field viability. Rodriguez will also play seven or eight innings Tuesday. His status for Wednesday's game is unclear – as is his relationship with the Yankees.