“Moments like this mark time for all of us.”
Those were the words from Jeff Banister in the interview room after the game on Sunday afternoon, reflecting on having seen Adrian Beltre’s 3,000th hit on Sunday afternoon. It was a double to left field, just like his first big league hit, just over nineteen years ago. The true value of any milestone is the journey that spans the gap between the two points.
But alternately, without milestones, it’s hard to measure direction or distance.
So we mark the time. At 2:37pm in Texas, Adrian Beltre strode toward the batter’s box for the first time today, as 1,634 miles and one time zone away, another Rangers legend marked time of his own. It was 3:37 in Cooperstown, NY as Pudge Rodriguez, Hall of Fame class of 2017, sat and waited. Bud Selig had begun his acceptance speech just ten minutes prior.
The crowd and the temperature at Globe Life Park rose in unison as Beltre stepped to the plate. Again, as with last night, the crowd grew deathly silent as each pitch was thrown, only to fill the spaces with raucous applause and cheering. And again, as with last night, their hopes were, for the time being, deferred. Beltre struck out swinging at a 90mph Wade Miley slider in the dirt.
At 2:53pm CDT, a video honoring Pudge Rodriguez was shown on the big screen at Globe Life Park, while at 3:53pm EDT, a video honoring Pudge Rodriguez was shown on the big screen in Cooperstown. A minute later, Carlos Gomez was announced, and one minute after that, Rodriguez was introduced to the waiting Cooperstown crowd. Gomez singled at 2:56pm. Rodriguez thanked God and began his speech at 3:57.
After that, time slowed a bit. Five consecutive baserunners reached, including three consecutive RBI singles. At 3:24CDT, Craig Gentry grounded out to second base to mercifully end the twelve-minute inning. At 4:26EDT, Rodriguez waved as he finished his 29-minute speech.
Six minutes later, Wade Miley threw ball one to Adrian Beltre. Then ball two. Welington Castillo called time and visited the mound to talk to Miley. Ball three. It was 3:33pm in Texas on July 30th, 2017, and Adrian Beltre swung hard at the next pitch, sending it past Manny Machado and into history.
His team, his coaches, and most notably, his wife and children rushed onto the field as the banner unfurled in center field. His three kids, Cassie, A.J., and Camilla, ran past their Dad and into right field to reveal the new “Adrian Beltre 3,000 Career Hits” sign before returning to hug their Dad. Beltre acknowledged the crowd, first with two raised hands, and then with a tipped batting helmet.
Then time, like some stretched-out rubber band, ceased to tick by in half-seconds and frozen indelible images, and snapped forward in rapid movement. The rest of the game wasn’t much to speak of. There was a late comeback, and there were home runs from Nomar Mazara and Rougned Odor. Two from Odor, in fact. But the comeback ultimately fell short, as Beltre grounded out to end the game at 5:54pm.
We mark the time, but we do not stop it. The journey continues, even tonight. At 8:09pm, just a few short hours after coming out onto the field to celebrate history with his teammate, word broke that Jonathan Lucroy had been traded to the Colorado Rockies for a player to be named later. It is likely that time, and the journey, will move very slowly for the next few months as the Rangers re-tool and try to compete in future years, hopefully soon enough that Beltre will one day get a World Series ring right here in the very stadium in which he got his first career home run (as a Dodger), his first cycle (as a Mariner), and his 3,000th hit (as a Ranger.) Someday, he too will be in Cooperstown.
He knows that time isn’t stopping either.
But in knowing that it will someday end, Beltre also gave us a little insight into the importance of enjoying the moment while it is here.
I believe when I learned to enjoy the game, that's when my talent started to come out little bit more," Beltre said in Spanish during his postgame press availability. "In the beginning of my career I was not like that. I took everything to heart; I stressed out a lot. When I started to enjoy the game, I learned that baseball is not everything. There is a life outside of the field. I began to enjoy the game but at the same time respect my teammates and do the best I can do everyday. That's when my talent began to come out and I began to understand that this started, for me, as a hobby, a way to have fun. Now that I'm in the League, why should I change? So when I started to implement that more in my game, my abilities came out a lot easier. I performed better."
You would be forgiven if you wanted to instead translate that last word to "best."
So for a moment, we stop and salute. To Pudge Rodriguez and to Adrian Beltre, as they each step through the door of history. Time does not stop. The sun sets on this day, even now, and a new day is creeping towards us at the same rate it always has. But we pause to acknowledge that we will never forget the one, this one that has just transpired.