Are you all up for another AdriA?n BeltrA� story? Just one more, I promise. Okay, so I can’t really promise that. What I can do instead is try to remind all baseball fansa��all sports fans reallya��of one very important lesson. And it is this: do not take greatness for granted. Appreciate the heck out of it, because you never know when it’s going to fade away.
That’s what my story about AdriA?n BeltrA� centers around: appreciation. Appreciation for the fact that on Sunday, he became the first-ever Dominican-born player to notch 3,000 career hits. Appreciation for the fact that despite being in his 20th Major League season, he is still putting up excellent numbers. And appreciation for the fact that even at 38 years old, AdriA?n BeltrA� has more fun playing this stupid wonderful game than anyone else I’ve witnessed in my lifetime.
I realize that these admissions probably date me as younger than most in this businessa��that’s not meant to be a humble brag or anything either; I’m simply imagining reactions such as: a�?Really, AdriA?n BeltrA�? That’s your bar?” But it’s true. And you know what, that should be the bar. AdriA?n BeltrA� should be the bar. His love for this game is contagious. The amount of fun he has on a baseball field while still being so damn good at his job is commendable. His attitude needs to be celebrated not only now, but for years after his playing days are long over.
And to be selfish for just a momenta��his final playing days are more than likely coming much sooner than I’d like. Not because I want to see him play forever; I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. In fact there are some athletes who I wish would’ve called it quits sooner than they did, but that’s neither here nor there. Of course I’m going to miss BeltrA� when he’s no longer gracing a baseball field. But more than that, I’m going to regret the fact that I didn’t appreciate him sooner. I’m going to regret the fact that it took far longer for me to care so much about him than it should have.
I cannot quite pinpoint when this shift occurred, but for the longest time he was just a guy to me. A guy who had tons of fun, of course, but a guy nonetheless. Imagine thinking of AdriA?n BeltrA� as just a guy. Can you? I hope not. Should you? Goodness no. His presence on the diamond means so much more than the 3,000 hits (and counting). It means so much more than the 600-plus doubles, or the 450-plus dingers. Or the fact that between his age-31 to age-38 seasons, he’s hitting .310/.360/.522/.822 with 1,300 hits, over 250 doubles and 200 home runs.
AdriA?n BeltrA�’s presence on the diamond serves as a reminder of our inner-child. A time when we would just run around the playground with our friends soaking up the sun and having as much fun as we possibly could for as long as we possibly could. We never wanted to come inside. We never wanted to stop. For then, we didn’t have a worry in the world. All we cared about was playing, smiling and laughing. We would prank; we horsed around; and all the while we still tried to remain relatively competitive. All in good fun, of course.
That’s AdriA?n BeltrA�. Sure he takes his job more seriously than we took baseball when we were kids; he has to. That’s his job. But nobody said he had to be so darn fun while doing so. He did that all on his own, and we’re better off having witnessed it. Now, 20 years later (and counting), he finds himself one step closer to the Hall of Fame.
So appreciate AdriA?n BeltrA�, sports fans. And please, appreciate the hell out of him. Players like that don’t come around as often as they should.