The A-Rod friend explained to The Post, “I said, ‘This lady is like American royalty. Whatever happens, you cannot treat her badly. If you split up for any reason, she has to be the one to dump your ass!’ It’s a lot of pressure on someone to date Jennifer Lopez! But they both fell in love.”
Rodriguez got down on one knee at Baker’s Bay, an ultra-exclusive island in the Bahamas — the same spot where the couple first went on vacation together — while Lopez broke down in tears.
According to friends, Rodriguez, 43, told no one of his plans to propose, searching for the perfect ring for several months and dealing with a jewelry designer abroad in secret.
The couple, who frequently speak Spanish to each other, are said to be a real team.
“They’re so respectful to each other,” said a source who has worked with Rodriguez. “When Alex is working for ESPN [calling baseball games], Jennifer goes … and sits quietly in the booth because she likes to watch him. They have that kind of relationship. Likewise, when she was doing her [concert residency] in Vegas, he would fly in. He was at almost every show. The support level is incredible.”
Just hours after their proposal, though, the couple was hit by claims from ex-Yankee José Canseco, who accused Rodriguez of cheating on Lopez with José’s ex-wife, Jessica.
In a series of tweets, he addressed Rodriguez, telling him to “stop cheating on Jennifer Lopez.” (Jessica refuted the claims, saying, “Those false accusations José is making are not true!”)
“When you get engaged and that night you have some maniac tweeting that crap, that’s got to be hard to deal with,” said a Rodriguez insider. “But Alex and Jennifer are strong enough to understand who they are. People have tried to knock them down, but you can’t fake love.”
Although the couple had met each other briefly years ago, Lopez has said that the timing was just right when they began dating in early 2017.
“Both of them fully admit that if they’d [gotten together] 10 years ago, it just wouldn’t have worked,” said the longtime A-Rod friend. “They were just different people back then.” (At that time, Lopez was still married to her third husband, and the father of her twins, singer Marc Anthony. Rodriguez was still with his ex-wife, Cynthia Scurtis, with whom he shares two daughters.)
When they did hook up, it was a definite change of pace for Rodriguez. He has dated plenty of independent women — typically around his own age or older — before, including Madonna, Kate Hudson, Cameron Diaz and tech executive Anne Wojcicki. “Alex has always had very stunning, very famous girlfriends,” said a friend of the couple. “He’s not one of those guys who has to be the alpha — he doesn’t want to be the most famous guy in the room.”
But the athlete, who loves to talk to fans on the streets of Manhattan, never had to deal with a security detail before being with Lopez, 49.
“Jennifer always has security wherever she goes — she has to,” said the friend of the couple. “Arguably, she’s way more famous than Alex. If you dropped him in the middle of London, people wouldn’t really know him! They know him now for being with Jennifer.”
On the Grammys red carpet in February, Rodriguez was spotted snapping photos of Lopez. A few weeks later, he let her have the limelight at the Oscars — to the point that she had to call him back to pose for photographers after he had wandered away.
“He often jokes that people think he’s Jennifer’s security and try to get him out of the photo! He says ‘I’m just the guy holding the bag!’” said the friend of the couple. “But they compliment each other so well.”
Lopez revealed how she was the one to make a move when she bumped into Rodriguez in Beverly Hills in 2016.
“I almost yelled out ‘Alex,’ but I am the shyest person when it comes to things like that,” she told Vanity Fair.
The singer and actress overcame her nerves, tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Hey.” Rodriguez called her later that afternoon, and they made a date for dinner. Even then, however, he wasn’t entirely sure if it was a date or just a friendly meet-up.
“Maybe we were seeing each other at night because of her work schedule,” he told Vanity Fair of his thoughts. “I went in uneasy, not knowing her situation.”
During the dinner, “He was nervous, and it was really cute,” Lopez recalled to VF.
It was only after Lopez hinted that she was single that Rodriguez made his move: excusing himself for a trip to the restroom, then sending her a text about how sexy she looked.
By August 2017, it was clear the couple was playing for keeps. Attendees at billionaire Ron Perelman’s annual summer bash, Apollo in the Hamptons, told The Post how the newly anointed J-Rod freely kissed in front of the other A-list guests.
The J.Lo romance comes at an interesting time of reinvention for Rodriguez.
While playing with the Yankees over 12 years, he was seen as a great — but also as troubled and self-serious. The infielder and three-time American League MVP was suspended for the 2014 season for violating Major League Baseball’s performance-enhancing-drugs policy.
Rodriguez has said he used the drugs to manage chronic back pain and out of a desire to boost his batting statistics, and expressed regret.
“How stupid can you be?” he admitted to “Undeniable” interviewer Joe Buck. “This thing cost me over $40 million. And it cost me my reputation, and it may have cost me the Hall of Fame and a number of other things.”
According to A-Rod’s longtime friend, “Alex has been on a roller-coaster that most people haven’t been on. He has been as down as you can be and he fought back — it was a battle. Most people don’t know how down he really was [during his suspension from MLB].
“Alex has taken his fair share of beatings in the press,” the longtime friend added. But thanks to a new career at ESPN and Fox — as well as the way romance with Lopez seems to have lightened him up — “over the past two years people have looked at him differently.”
Meanwhile, the world has long been obsessed with Lopez’s love life, going back to one of the first portmanteau relationships — Bennifer, her made-for-tabloid romance with actor Ben Affleck from 2002-2004 — as well as her high-profile marriage to Anthony less than six months after splitting from Affleck. (Jennifer and Marc divorced in 2014.)
Before that, she was wed to backup dancer Cris Judd from 2001 to 2003. A decade later, Judd told Us Weekly: “I can’t give you the answer as to why her relationships don’t work. I think [the issue is that it is] work. [The question is,] whether you want to work on it or not.”
But sources say Lopez is determined to put the work into her relationship with Rodriguez. One of the easiest parts of that, so far, has been blending their two families: his daughters Ella, 10, and Natasha, 14, and her 11-year-old twins Max and Emme.
“I was so loving to his kids and he was so loving and accepting of mine, and they embraced each other right away,” Lopez told People. “[It was] ‘I get a new bonus brother and sisters to hang out with all the time and it’s nice.’ ”
In fact, according to the friend of the couple, it was their children who pushed for the proposal.
Insiders add that there are no plans yet for when or where the wedding will happen, but that there will likely have to be some serious rearranging of the busy duo’s schedules.
In addition to Rodriguez’s broadcast career, Lopez is working on “100 projects as usual,” the friend of the couple said, including starring in and producing the NBC show “World of Dance.”
There are no hard feelings about one or the other being too busy, however. Said the friend of the couple, “They both understand their worlds.”
Or, as the longtime Rodriguez friend puts it: “He’s met his match.”