This guy can catch anything, including a falling star. Action is the loudest and clearest statement of what people can do when they know they can. His ability to play the “hot corner” was uncanny. It was as if he could see into the future. His mantra was, play as hard as you can and respect your opponent. Meanwhile, catch everything within reach and knock the cover off of the baseball. You didn’t look for reasons to take this guy out of the lineup; you looked for reasons to keep him in. He looked so young; you would swear he was playing hooky. His head was big, really big; when he flew on a plane, he needed a separate ticket for his cap. He owned a smile that would melt chocolate, but at times could be cold-blooded like an icebox, especially if you rubbed his head. He hates when people rub his head for luck. It has also been rumored that he does not wear a protective cup while playing. That makes it a lot more important to be able to handle those balls pulled in his direction from only 90 feet away from home plate. He’ll be 35 on his next birthday, but you wouldn’t know it by watching him play. When greatness meets class, you have Adrian Beltre. When you meet Adrian, remember you may shake his hand, pat him on the back, but don’t rub his head.
Boy, can he blister a fastball; some say he could hit .300 with a pool cue. He hits baseballs like Floyd Mayweather hits a chin. Just maybe he has a coupon for all-you-can-eat fastballs. No doubt he can shrink a ballpark with one swing of his bat. He has become known for his signature home-run swing, where he drops down to one knee when he connects with an off-speed pitch. In the last three years with Texas, Beltre has hit .312 at the plate. With an average of over 30 home runs and 100 RBI’s a year, this guy is used to doing the heavy lifting for the Rangers. My guess is that he’ll be number fifteen, right after Chipper Jones, to take his place in Cooperstown as a third baseman. If he continues to play at his current level he could end up being statistically one of the top two or three third basemen of all time, behind only Eddie Mathews and Mike Schmidt. With two years left on his contract and an additional one year player’s option, he is poised to take advantage of the Ranger’s new acquisitions, Prince Fielder and Shin Soo Choo. Fielder should provide plenty of protection at the plate while Choo will more than likely be standing on a base when Beltre comes to bat.
Beltre grew up in the Dominican and signed with Los Angeles in 1994. Adrian Beltre spent some time in the Minor Leagues with the Dodger Double-A affiliate, San Antonio Missions. The Missions are in the same division as the Corpus Christi Hooks of the Texas League. Beltre made his debut with the Dodgers on June 24, 1998, against the Anaheim Angels. Interestingly, six days after his debut, Adrian hit his first Major League home run off Rick Helling of the Texas Rangers. Beltre would start slowly with the Dodgers, but build toward a terrific season in 2004, where he led all of the Major Leagues with 48 home runs. He was honored with the Babe Ruth Home Run Award.
In 2005, Beltre signed as a free agent with the Seattle Mariners for 64 million dollars, spread out over five years. The large confines of Safeco Field and the added pressure of a big-time contract created additional weight. While playing in Seattle, he disappeared faster than the big kid in a dodge ball game. His numbers suffered at the plate and his number of errors also increased. Other than making a lot of money, Beltre did accomplish several things. On July 23, 2006, he became the first to hit an inside-the-park home run at Safeco Field. On September 1, 2008, Beltre became the fourth Mariner to hit for the cycle and, third, his decision to not wear a protective cup would come back to haunt him. On August 13, 2009, Beltre took a hard-hit ground ball to the crotch. He ended up on the disabled list. During his first at-bat when he returned to the lineup, teammate Ken Griffey, Jr. had the P.A. announcer play the waltz from The Nutcracker Suite.
On November 5, 2009, he was declared a free agent; next stop, Fenway Park. His one-year 9-million-dollar stop in Boston paid big dividends for the Red Sox and himself.
On January 5, 2011, Beltre signed a five-year deal for 80 million, with the Texas Rangers. This three-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner has continued to get better while leading the Rangers to three consecutive playoffs and two World Series appearances. On August 22, 2012, I watched Adrian Beltre become only the sixth player in Major League history to hit three home runs in a regular season and a postseason game. The others were: Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, George Brett, Albert Pujols and Pablo Sandoval.
For eleven of his sixteen seasons, Beltre has worn the #29. He now approaches 400 home runs, with 2,426 hits and has tallied over 1300 RBI’s. If it weren’t for his five miserable years in Seattle, his career batting average would be near .300.
As for rubbing his head, it’s the real deal for him. He hates it. The story goes that while in Seattle, Cy Young winner, pitcher Felix Hernandez, discovered Beltre’s dislike of someone touching his head. When Adrian was traded to Boston, King Felix told Red Sox catcher, Victor Martinez, about Beltre’s issue with people touching his head. Of course Victor told all his teammates and the picking on Adrian was on. Heck, even Superman had issues with Kryptonite. Now the Rangers all take their turns, especially shortstop Elvis Andrus. Even Skipper Ron Washington got into the act last year. How far it will go is anybody’s guess. But as long as Beltre keeps putting up numbers, that noggin of his will remain a target.
Andy Purvis is a local author. His books "In the Company of Greatness" and "Remembered Greatness" are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble, at Beamer's Sports Grill 5922 S Staples, and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc. They are also available in e-reader format. Contact him at www.purvisbooks.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.