05/11/1998 at 01:00 AM EDT
Ask Seattle Mariner Alex Rodriguez what he covets most, and it is not All-Star status (he has had it twice) or a Most Valuable Player Award (he was a 1996 finalist). "A major league baseball player is no longer solely identified by hitting home runs," says the 22-year-old shortstop. "You have to speak well, behave well and dress well." The closets in his rented Seattle condo bulge with 60 suits, 65 pairs of dress shoes, 100 shirts and 250 ties. "You can take my cars or my house," he says, "but don't mess with my clothes."
Yet no matter how nattily clad this youngest child of Dominican immigrants may be, it's the buff body underneath that caused a Seattle Times reporter to lose linguistic control. His physique, she opined, is "as lovely as the glow of Mount Rainier during a summer sunset." To keep that mountain sheen, Rodriguez lifts weights at the team clubhouse six days a week and pampers himself like a matinee idol. He washes his face with Clinique soap, gets his hair cut every 10 days and indulges in a monthly manicure and pedicure. And nothing stands between Rodriguez and his four-times-daily flossing: "I'm big into teeth."
The fans are appreciative. "Everywhere we go, women go nuts," says Mariners catcher John Marzano of his pal, who last year tallied more than 20,000 adoring letters. Right now, Rodriguez says, he's too busy to date, but for those hoping to get on his roster, he cautions, "I can't be with a girl who is taller than me." Not that many need worry: Rodriguez is 6'3".