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Tribe attendant on A-Rod duty this week

Tribe attendant on A-Rod duty this week

CLEVELAND -- Jack Efta's job has an added wrinkle this week.

The Progressive Field umpires attendant is responsible for delivering specially-marked baseballs to the home-plate umpire during the at-bats of Alex Rodriguez, who entered Tuesday night's game one long ball shy of 600 career home runs.

Efta received about three dozen balls for the Indians' four-game series against the Yankees, each marked in black pen with the letter "R" -- standing for Rodriguez, Efta assumed -- and a number ranging from 25 through 60.

The first 24 marked balls were used last weekend, when the Yankees played the Royals at Yankee Stadium. Eight more were used in Monday's series opener, a game Rodriguez finished 0-for-4.

When Rodriguez strides to the dish, Efta's work begins.

"I run however many balls the plate umpire needs and he gets rid of all the others," said Efta, who has held his post since 1995. "We use them in sequence and have to record what happens to each ball. There's a log that was pre-printed by [Major League Baseball] that has the time he's at bat, what at-bat it is, what inning it is, whether the ball was recovered or not and what happened to it."

Should a fan collect No. 600 in Cleveland, that individual will need to prove it by presenting a ball that bears the letter "R" and the appropriate sequential number.

"I give out game balls behind home plate to kids all the time," Efta said. "So if people are smart enough to do it, we know that somebody isn't going to sneak one in there."

John Barone is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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