ARLINGTON, Tex.—Adrian Beltre just wanted to work hard, be consistent, and earn respect in the game.
As a young player, he never even thought about historical numbers like 3,000 hits.
“Never in my mind did I think that I was going to be in the position where I'm at right now,” Beltre admitted.
"If I tell you that, that I was, I'm lying.
“For me, I just wanted to be a good player,” he stressed.
“When you play for a long time, you accumulate stuff.”
Now 38 and in his 20th major-league season, the Texas Rangers' third baseman goes into a weekend series at home against Baltimore just four hits shy of 3,000 in his career.
Only 30 other players have done that, with Ichiro Suzuki the only current active player in that club.
Next will be the five-time Gold Glove winner who got his first hit as a 19-year-old rookie with the L.A. Dodgers on June 24, 1998, four years after they had signed the kid from the Dominican Republic.
This is Beltre's seventh season in Texas, where he finally made it to a World Series, and he is signed through next season.
“Everything you see out there, to maintain that level of intensity, you can tell how much he loves being around his team and the game,” noted Orioles' manager Buck Showalter.
“He's got to be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, doesn't he? I mean, what else do you have to do?”
On the same weekend that former Rangers' catcher Ivan Rodriguez is in Cooperstown for his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Beltre could get his 3,000th hit.
Beltre has some quirky habits—he checks his own swing to umpires, hates being touched on the head, and there are the shuffling feet and swiveling legs in the batter's box on inside pitches or those in the dirt.
But behind that imposing stare, he sometimes shows is a guy who just really loves playing the game.
He is a .286 career hitter who has hit for the cycle three times, and been a league leader in hits, doubles, and home runs.
“This guy plays with a relaxed intensity that you want your guys to play with,” said L.A. Angels' manager Mike Scioscia.
“He's very focused, but he's very confident and he's comfortable in the fact that he's going to prevail in every situation,” Scioscia added.
“You just marvel, I think, at the consistency of his game over a long period of time and you know it takes a lot to be that good that long,” echoed Miami Marlins' manager Don Mattingly, an AL MVP and six-time all-star during his 14 seasons playing for the N.Y. Yankees.
Hall-of-Fame players George Brett and Wade Boggs are the only primary third basemen in the 3,000-hit club.
Beltre just overtook Dave Winfield for 21st all-time with 1,095 extra-base hits.
Beltre also passed Cal Ripken Jr. for 15th with his 604 doubles, and he ranks 38th with his 454 homers.
Since missing the first 51 games this season because of calf issues, Beltre is hitting a team-best .307 with nine homers, and 34 RBIs in his 48 games.
Beltre was 7-for-10 in three games this week against the Marlins before a bizarre scene in the eighth inning Wednesday night, when he got ejected from the game while waiting on deck to bat again.
Second-base umpire and crew chief Gerry Davis motioned for Beltre to get closer to the on-deck circle.
Beltre, already with a homer and two doubles in what became a 22-10 loss, was tossed when he instead dragged the large plastic mat marking the circle closer to him.
“There was no need for him to call me out there. There was no need to throw me out,” a still-baffled Beltre said afterward.
“I don't think I showed him up," he added. ”I just did what he told me to do. . . .
“He took away an at-bat from me. I don't think that was necessary.”