ARLINGTON -- Rangers television reporter Emily Jones summed up the feelings of teammates, family, friends, special guests and fans who showed up to Globe Life Park on Saturday night to honor third baseman Adrián Beltré.
“An incredible man and an incredible teammate,” Jones said. “The game of baseball is better for Adrian having been in it and we are all lucky to have been along for the ride.”
The Rangers honored Beltre by retiring his No. 29 before their game with the Athletics. Beltre is the fifth person to have his uniform retired by the Rangers along with Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan (34), catcher Ivan Rodriguez (7) and former manager Johnny Oates (26). Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 was retired in 1997 by all 30 Major League teams.
Beltre was with the Rangers from 2011-18, the final eight seasons of a 21-year career that included 3,166 hits, 477 home runs, four Rangers Player of the Year Awards, five Gold Glove Awards and four All-Star appearances. He is ranked with Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt, Brooks Robinson, Eddie Mathews and George Brett as the greatest third basemen in baseball history.
Jones was Master of Ceremonies and the special guests included former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda. He was the general manager in 1998 who overruled other club officials and decreed that Beltre would not only be called up at the age of 19, but would remain in the big leagues permanently.
His presence was unannounced and caught Beltre by surprise.
“He was one of the finest young men we ever had in our organization. … The Dodgers,” Lasorda said. “Whatever he accomplishes for the rest of his life, he played for the Dodgers.”
Other special guests included long-time best friend Raul Ibanez, former teammates David Murphy and Michael Young, broadcaster Eric Nadel and general manager Jon Daniels. Former Rangers pitcher Steve Foucault and outfielder Julio Borbon -- who also wore No. 29 before Beltre -- were there, although Rusty Greer was with his son Mason of Colleyville Heritage (HS) at the Class 5A state high school baseball tournament.
Beltre was joined by his wife Sandra, daughters Cassie and Camila, son A.J. and parents Bienvenido and Andrea. Behind them were four oversized cards that were signed by hundreds of fans who shared their personal feelings and affection for Beltre.
Dr. Victoria Farrar-Myers of the Arlington City Council declared it Adrian Beltre Day, and he was presented with a special painting by renowned sports artist Vernon Wells Sr. The video board played tributes from some of the greatest players in the game, including Beltre’s peers at third base.
“You’re coming to Cooperstown and I’ll be there to see you,” Brett said.
“I’m going to save a seat for you,” said Chipper Jones, another Hall of Famer.
“I’ll remember all those hits you took away from me,” Angels first baseman Albert Pujols said. “I’d probably have 4,000 hits by now.”
Beltre’s former Rangers teammates, many who were watching from the dugout, also sent their wishes by video: Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, Rougned Odor, Delino DeShields, Shin-Soo Choo, Mike Napoli, Colby Lewis, Rodriguez and Ryan.
“Thank you for everything you did for all of us,” Gallo said. “We are extremely grateful. You are my idol. I am so blessed to have played for you.”
Elvis Andrus, on behalf of his teammates, presented Beltre with a bathrobe specially designed by reliever Jesse Chavez. He also playfully gave Beltre one final rub on his bald head and elicited one more mock angry reaction.
A video narrated by Rangers broadcaster Matt Hicks celebrated many of Beltre’s most famous moments: the postseason home runs, hitting for the cycle, the great defensive plays and his 3,000th hit.
Nadel officially announced No. 29 was retired and the fans finally got to hear from Beltre himself in a six-minute speech.
“I am really, really honored to be here tonight to hear those beautiful and wonderful things about me,” Beltre said. “I know they are probably lying.”
He thanked many, from God above, to his parents and family, and especially his wife Sandra for being at his side.
“I know without you, none of this would be possible,” Beltre said.
He was visibly moved by the presence of Lasorda, who is also in the Hall of Fame.
“There’s no doubt without Tommy, there would be no Adrian here today,” Beltre said.
He thanked his teammates and many others, including the clubhouse attendants and medical staff who kept him healthy. He expressed his gratitude toward owners Ray Davis, Bob Simpson and Neil Leibman for bringing him to Texas, and acknowledged the role of Daniels, Ryan and others in the front office, including the late scout Don Welke.
Beltre thanked Young for making him so welcome in Texas back in 2011. Young did so even though the signing of Beltre pushed him off third base. Of course, he mentioned Andrus, who played next to him for eight years at shortstop.
“It was a helluva ride,” Beltre said. “I enjoyed every moment of it. Being out there next to you competing and having fun, playing the game with one of my best friends next to me on my left side.”
There was only one thing left to say before he rode off with his family.
“I want to thank you the fans for supporting me, supporting the organization and always being there for us,” Beltre said.
T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.