Indians legend Belle drops in on Spring Training
Still a fan, former slugger visits camp for first time in three years
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- He leaned against a table in the center of the Indians' clubhouse. Cleveland players strolled by, going about the day's work, seemingly unaware that one of the Tribe's legends was suddenly, but quietly, in their midst.
For the first time in three years, Albert Belle dropped by his former team's facility during Spring Training. Back in 2012, his arrival was much louder, though that can happen when Kenny Lofton and Carlos Baerga are also in the room. On Thursday, Belle swung by the complex on his own, wanting to say hello to some of the staff members who are still around from his days with the ballclub.
"I just wanted to see some of the guys," Belle said.
The 48-year-old Belle, whose beard is now gray, lives in the area and spends his days as a proud father of three young girls. Since retiring from baseball after the 2000 season, Belle has avoided the spotlight, stayed away from the game and declined plenty of requests for appearances.
Right now, the Indians are working on assembling a cast of players to participate in the June 19-20 celebration of the 1995 team that reached the World Series. Asked if he will be able to attend the festivities in Cleveland this summer, Belle shrugged.
"I've got to look and see when all that stuff is," Belle said. "I was just one of many characters on that team."
In a career shortened by injury, Belle launched 381 home runs and posted a .933 OPS across 12 seasons, in which he was named to five All-Star teams and picked up five Silver Slugger Awards. In eight years with Cleveland, which selected Belle in the second round of the 1987 Draft, he piled up 242 homers, 223 doubles, 751 RBIs and a .949 OPS in 913 games.
During the strike-shortened 1995 campaign, Belle became the first and only player in Major League history to have 50 home runs and 50 doubles in a single season.
Belle scanned the clubhouse when asked for his thoughts on the current Indians team.
"Well, [Corey Kluber] should win 20 games," Belle said. "There's four or five question marks after that. There's a lot of question marks. The guy that closed last year, Cody Allen, I like him. I like [lefty Nick] Hagadone. The bullpen was pretty decent."
Belle said he still spends time watching games, but said his time is mostly occupied with "soccer and dance" for his daughters.
"I kind of watch whatever games are on," Belle said. "Otherwise, I'm watching Disney. Now, they've got the new Cinderella coming out."