LOS ANGELES -- Carlos Beltran stood next to the makeshift stage on the field at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night after the Astros' 5-1 win in Game 7, seemingly stunned that he had just taken part in something he had waited his entire career to take part in: a World
LOS ANGELES -- Carlos Beltran stood next to the makeshift stage on the field at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night after the Astros' 5-1 win in Game 7, seemingly stunned that he had just taken part in something he had waited his entire career to take part in: a World Series trophy ceremony.
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Holding his young son, Evan, in his arms, Beltran was a man living his dream. He had envisioned this since he first broke into the Majors in 1998 at the tender age of 21, and now, the 40-year-old was at the top of the baseball world, a member of the world champion Houston Astros.
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"I've waited 20 years, but it's worth it," Beltran said. "I'm excited and happy, looking forward to what is ahead."
Beltran went 0-for-3 in pinch-hitting duty during the Astros' seven-game win over the Dodgers, but he played an important role for Houston throughout the season. In addition to hitting 14 home runs with 51 RBIs as the team's primary DH for much of the season, he served as a sage presence in the clubhouse, helping many of the young, budding stars with advice on and off the field.
"This group is special," said Brian McCann, who played with Beltran for two years with the Yankees before reuniting in Houston this season. "He's a big reason why we're here."
The Astros' title didn't come as a surprise to Beltran, who told McCann back on Oct. 16 before Game 3 of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium that this was their destiny.
"He told me in New York during the lineup announcements, 'You know we're going to win a World Series ring. I feel it. This team deserves it,'" McCann said after Game 7. "He gave me a hug out here and said, 'I told you.'"
Several high-profile athletes in Beltran's age bracket have rode off into the sunset after winning a championship, but he remains uncertain as to what his baseball future holds.
Beltran said Wednesday night that he hasn't decided whether he will try to play again in 2018 or call it a career, though he plans to bask in the glow of his first World Series title for a bit before sitting down with his wife, Jessica, and their kids to discuss his next move.
"I'm going to make a decision this offseason, no doubt about that, with my family," Beltran said. "I don't think it's a hard decision for me to make; maybe try to play one more year or stay home. I will make that decision a couple weeks from now. Right now, I'm just going to enjoy this moment.
"Winning a World Series is something I've been trying to do for 20 years. It only took me 20 years to get to this position. Now, I could go either way."
This had been Beltran's seventh trip to the postseason and second time in the World Series, but he had fallen short of the ultimate goal during each previous trip. A 10-time All-Star who has put together a resume certain to thrust him into the Hall of Fame conversation, Beltran was missing only one thing: a championship ring.
Beltran signed a one-year deal with the Astros last offseason, hopeful that his contribution to a core of young stars in the making could help Houston take the next step. Even as his role in the lineup diminished late in the season, he remained a key figure in the clubhouse.
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George Springer, who won the Willie Mays World Series Most Valuable Player Award, credited his veteran teammate with helping him move past his four-strikeout performance in Game 1, while Beltran took it upon himself to help facilitate the apology from teammate Yuli Gurriel to Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish for his insensitive gesture and remarks during Game 3 in Houston.
"We have a blend of everything. We have some youthful exuberance, we've got some guys in the middle of their career, we've got some guys who chose to be here toward the tail end of their career to try to be the glue to bring us the championship," manager A.J. Hinch said. "We needed every sort of contribution for different parts of the year. We can't say enough about the culture that's created here. The chemistry this team provided for themselves really is second to none in my years in baseball."
"Everybody really means a lot to me on this ballclub," Beltran said. "We have established a great relationship with everyone on our team. The fact that we were able to pull this together, it really means a lot."
The Astros jumped out to an early lead with two first-inning runs in Game 7, then scored three more times in the second, two of them coming on Springer's home run against Darvish. The quick barrage was just what Beltran had hoped to see, allowing him and his teammates to "take a breather" rather than going through yet another tense, anxiety-ridden game that had become the signature of this classic World Series.
Beltran never got into Game 7, but he was invested in every pitch, his first championship getting closer with each out.
"Honestly, I was a bit more calm because I wasn't in action," Beltran said. "But you live every pitch, you live every play. I'm excited the same way as if I was in the field."
When Corey Seager grounded out to Jose Altuve for the final out, the man who has experienced virtually everything Major League Baseball has to offer, was like a rookie looking for his locker on Opening Day.
"I didn't even know what to do when the third out was caught," Beltran said. "I didn't know where to go or who to hug."
Beltran cited the people in both Houston and his native Puerto Rico, who have dealt with devastating hurricanes during the past two-plus months, hopeful that the Astros' title can bring some joy to a pair of regions in dire need of some.
It remains to be seen whether Beltran's strikeout to end Game 6 was the final at-bat of his career, one which has seen him collect 2,725 hits, 435 home runs and 1,587 RBIs during the regular season, plus a .307 average, 16 homers and 42 RBIs in 65 playoff games. But if it was, his final night as a player included him hoisting the Commissioner's Trophy, something he had watched others do for nearly two decades.
"This is the best, man," Beltran said when asked where this ranked among his accomplishments. "Being able to win the championship, I think it's the top."
Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.