I often wonder if Adrian Beltre always had this much fun playing baseball. In full disclosure, I knew very little of AB before he got to Texas. When I started covering the Rangers predominately in 2007, he was with the Mariners. I heard the name, knew the numbers, but that was about it. He spent one season in Boston, and then Jon Daniels made perhaps the best decision of his professional career.
I will never forget that press conference. I was asked to do a one-on-one interview with Beltre after his introduction. I was terrified. I have no idea why, but I was so intimidated by him. (Thank goodness he doesn’t know how to work the internet, so he will never read this). He was effusive in his praise for his former organizations, he was respectful of his former and soon-to-be teammates (one in particular—looking at you, MY), and he was genuinely happy to be a Texas Ranger.
I left that interview feeling as if we were best friends…BAHAHAHAHAHA! Truth: I was scared shitless of Adrian Beltre for at least two years. Honestly. It wasn’t his fault. He was always courteous and respectful and willing to do whatever was asked of him. But there was something about him that was intimidating…an aura that is difficult to describe. Fast forward seven years later, and now I know why.
<Insert cheesy instrumental music here>
Because he’s special. He gets it. He always knows what to say and do. He does all the little things that people don’t even realize he’s doing, but still they can feel the effects of those actions without even knowing he’s responsible for them. It’s like he’s a ninja sniper superhero! Not sure if that even makes sense, but it’s the best analogy I’ve got at this point?!?
I can’t remember exactly when I stopped being terrified of him, but it probably involved him yelling at me, which is the highest compliment in the baseball clubhouse world. And in the years since then I have marveled at him ( I know, so cheesy, but bear with me). Seeing how he goes about his work, cares for his family, his teammates, his job, this organization and its fan base, and does it all while playing at the most ridiculous level of baseball is something to behold.
I interviewed him for a Rangers Foundation event a couple of years ago, and it went something like this:
Me: Adrian, I tell people all the time that even if they don’t like baseball, they should come to a game, sit on the third base side and do nothing but watch you from the first pitch to the final out, and they’ll get their money’s worth. What do you think about that?
Adrian: I think you’re weird. Why would you say that?
<Crowd erupts in laughter, of course>
Me: Because it’s the truth.
And it is.
Beltre’s “on-deck-circle-dragging-ejection” this week was further proof of that. He’s dressed as a clubbie and shined shoes in the dugout while on the DL, he’s played patty cake on the base paths with opposing base runners, he’s danced in the batter’s box, and gone to one knee on a home run so many times it’s become his signature. All the while, he’s played this game and his position as the highest level possible…and doing it while having more fun than any human should be allowed.
So as Adrian Beltre closes in on 3,000 career hits—the most ever by a Dominican-born player—I would like to say thank you. Thank you for making the last seven years fun, regardless of score or outcome. Thank you for working your ass off for your team and your family. Thank you for setting the tone in that clubhouse. I will forever be grateful for all of it.