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The New Mr. 3,000: Beltré Joins Baseball’s Elite

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Andrew-Leffler – by Andrew Leffler
 A Lot of Sports Talk contributing writer

 

ARLINGTON, TX — Today was a huge day in the life of Adrián Beltré – and that was even before he arrived at Globe Life Park later in the day to create an indelible mark in baseball history.

Beltré, the Dominican-born slugger for the Texas Rangers, indeed wrote his name in the history books in big, bold print, driving a pitch from Baltimore Orioles starter Wade Miley down the third base line for hit No. 3,000 in the fourth inning of today’s game and becoming the 31st Major Leaguer to reach the milestone. In the immediate pomp and circumstance after he reached second base, Beltré, a father of three, saw all of his children at the right-centerfield wall pulling down a tarpaulin cover to unveil a sign featuring Beltre’s trademark “down-on-one-knee” swing followthrough, honoring his baseball achievement.

Today also happened to be Father’s Day in the Dominican Republic, and combining the holiday with the passion the Caribbean nation has for the sport of baseball made Beltré’s accomplishment – done in front of his wife and three children, along with 32,437 others in attendance at the ball park – all the more meaningful.

“We have a lot of great baseball players in the Dominican Republic,” said Beltré, just the third player who primarily played third base to reach 3,000 hits, joining George Brett and Wade Boggs. “Just the fact that today is Father’s Day in the Dominican Republic, doing this on a day in the Dominican Republic is huge for me. Baseball is the number one sport in the Dominican. And I know that those guys have been following me for years and have been incredibly supportive. I’m proud of being the first Dominican born to get 3,000, but obviously, we have great players, and I’m just one of them.”

Beltré may believe he is just one of the many great Dominican players to play the game of baseball, but his standing in the game is much more exclusive; He’s just one of four players in Major League history to have at least 3,000 hits, 450 home runs and 600 doubles, joining the likes of Hank Aaron, Stan Musial and Carl Yastrzemski.

The 38-year old, known for his toughness and ability to consistently play through pain which would shelve even the toughest of ball players, has come a long way from the 19-year-old who made his Major League debut for the storied Los Angeles Dodgers franchise at Chavez Ravine. His debut saw him record a hit in his first major league at-bat – a double – against the Anaheim Angels and five-time All-Star left-hander Chuck Finley. Nineteen years, four teams and 2,999 hits later, Beltré adamantly stated that he never could have envisioned a day like today back when he was starting out his big league career as a teenager.

“Not even close,” said Beltré. “I never had any kind of personal idea of who I was going to be in the big leagues. I came to the big leagues to compete every day, be an everyday player. But never in my life did I think about collecting 3,000 hits, playing 20 plus years, and hitting over 400 homers. Never did I expect that. When you play every day, and play for your club, you accumulate numbers and that’s what happened here.”

The last seven years of his career have been spent with the Rangers, and his current manager, third-year skipper Jeff Banister, sang his praises and explained what Beltré has meant to the team and to the franchise since his arrival in Arlington.

“Winning is what we set out to do everyday, and we came up short today,” said Banister to start after the team’s 10-6 loss to Baltimore this afternoon. “However, an opportunity I think, it’s appropriate to celebrate 3,000 hits with Adrián. A guy who is, like we told him earlier, he means so much to this organization, to this team, a mentor towards every single player, coach. There are things that I learn every single day from him that are irreplaceable. What he puts himself through and how he goes out and wheels himself to compete, yes it’s appropriate to celebrate this moment with him and his family.”

Banister continued: “It’s emotional for us because we do know Adrián and we do know where his mind and focus is. It’s about winning a baseball game. Sometimes he takes over a baseball game for us and sometimes he leans, but one thing he does do is fight for all of us every single day. To be able to share that with him, it was definitely emotional for a number of guys. Consider myself blessed to write his name in the lineup every day. I wish I had a stamp to just stamp it and permanently put it on the lineup card every single day.”

Beltré’s name was in ink on the scorecard for today’s contest, and in the bottom of the second, he had a chance to make history against Miley, but Beltré struck out swinging on a full-count slider. In the fourth, Miley once again was erratic, throwing the first three balls out of the strike zone to Beltré. Conventional baseball wisdom almost always suggests for a hitter to not swing and take the 3-0 pitch.

But what happens when conventional wisdom runs up against a chance at making history?

“I was like, ‘Do I swing?’” Beltré joked.

Beltré realized that the next pitch could be the best pitch he would get from Miley, and if Beltré got it, he would swing.

He got it.

“When I hit it, luckily I got it through [third baseman Manny] Machado, and after that I felt like I was in a cloud running, and I did it but I couldn’t believe I did it. It was a cool moment seeing my teammates run out and my family run out.”

Banister also made sure that every Ranger involved – whether wearing a baseball uniform or not – was part of history.

“Moments like this mark time for all of us,” Banister said. “If you looked and saw our dugout, every single clubhouse attendant, chef, doctors, were all in the dugout. We told them all that you need to come and watch every at-bat till he gets 3,000 because it’s important. You need to mark this in your mind. Remember this because you may never see this again.”

Beltré’s milestone hit was a double, the 605th two-bagger of his Major League career, tying him with Hall of Famers Paul Molitor and Paul Waner for 13th place on the all-time doubles list. The other 30 hits that have accounted for No. 3,000 in Major League history have occurred in a variety of ways, but Beltré was pleased that his was pretty authoritative.

“I told my wife I didn’t want it to be a blooper or a slow roller to also get it,” Beltré said. “I want it to be a clean hit. A lot of my teammates told me and this, it was Elvis [Andrus] and [Robinson] Chirinos, they told me it’s going to be a double, because of [my] first hit, it was going to be a double. And I said it can be a homer too, that would be nice, be easier not to have to run hard, jog around the bases.”

No matter the variety of extra base hit – or hit in general – Beltré appreciated the fact that he was able to accomplish the feat during the Rangers’ current nine-game home stand.

“First thing, I wanted to make sure my family was there to witness it,” he said. “Second, and I was glad it happened, but I wanted it to be at home, and somehow it happened.”

An already special day for Beltré was even made more so by reaching the holy grail of Major League Baseball milestones, and, with hit No. 3,000, he currently is level in the all-time hits category with the late, great Roberto Clemente, almost inarguably the Caribbean’s most-beloved baseball player.

“I’m proud to be even mentioned with the name of Roberto Clemente,” Beltré said with humility and pride. “One of the most respected players in Latino America, but not only that, one of the best baseball players we’ve ever seen. Never in my life did I ever think I’d be mentioned with the things he has done. Today, somehow, I was able to get the same amount of hits that he did. I can’t put into words. I’m proud of what I’ve done and I’m just amazed I was able to get to this point.”

*Additional reporting done by Adesina O. Koiki, ALOST editor-in-chief.

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