Veteran Beltre still on top of his game at age 34
Durable Rangers third baseman on his career plans: 'Retirement? Not yet'
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The $75,000 Wishing Well Stakes went down to the wire at Santa Anita Park earlier this month, but Sky High Gal pulled it out in the end just ahead of Birdlover, Fanticola and Purim's Dancer.
Trainer John Sadler and jockey Corey Nakatani stepped to the Winner's Circle and received the Wishing Well Trophy from a special guest of Santa Anita Park:
Rangers third baseman and potential horse racing investor Adrian Beltre.
"I have a friend of mine who said it's a good investment and a good business," Beltre said. "I'm looking into it, trying to learn the business and see if it is. It could be a good hobby for when I retire."
Beltre, who turns 35 on April 7, makes his home in Arcadia, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles in the San Gabriel Valley, not far from the Santa Anita Park. It is a picturesque part of Southern California at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, and Beltre is close to buying a ranch in the area where he may pursue his interest in horses. Arcadia has also twice been voted as one of the "best places to raise your kids" by Bloomberg Businessweek, which works out well for Beltre and his wife, Sandra, in raising their three children.
Watching Adrian Jr., 7, paddle around the clubhouse behind his father or taking batting practice off him in the outfield four hours before a game, it's easy to see why family is important to Beltre. It's not easy when you are away for 6-7 months.
"He can play a little bit," Beltre said. "Hopefully he'll be better than me. He really likes it. I just let him be. I try to teach him the basics, but I don't want to push him too much. I just let him have fun. I'm trying to be involved as much as I can as a parent. I don't want to spend too much time away from them."
That's how it is for a potential Hall of Fame third baseman approaching the twilight of a great career. The desire to be with his family grows and thoughts turn to post-career options. Then, there is his body, specifically the legs.
That Beltre played in 161 games last year is a testament to his fortitude. The legs were an issue all season, and he no longer balks when manager Ron Washington puts him in the designated hitter spot. He was there for 15 games last season, and that could increase this year.
"Right now I'm good enough to play every day," Beltre said. "Retirement? Not yet. I don't think I'm there yet. I'll know when I'm done. When my body says I can't handle the stress anymore, I'll just hang it up and go see what's next for me."
The defensive metrics suggest Beltre wasn't quite as good in the field last year, and Manny Machado of the Orioles won the American League Gold Glove Award at third base. But Beltre, sore legs and all, still hit .315 with 30 home runs, 92 RBIs and a .509 slugging percentage last season. He led the league in hits.
"I'd pay to watch Beltre," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. "I've always been a big fan. I think he's the best defensive third baseman. It's a natural style he has -- nothing phony about it."
"A.B. is a great guy," former Rangers pitcher Darren Oliver said. "He is one of my favorite teammates. He brings it every day, whether he is healthy or not. You'd love to have 24 guys like him on your team."
The Rangers have the original, and Beltre still has three years to go on his contract. His ability to keep playing at a high level will be critical for the Rangers this year, as he hits cleanup behind Prince Fielder. He is also the elder statesman and team leader, who takes pride in being able to compete with younger players like his tormentor Elvis Andrus.
"He's trying to make me feel old," Beltre said. "He talks too much. He's a pain in the rear. But to compete with these young guys, you have to stay at a high level. Some guys, it's easy because they have so much talent to be here. To keep up with the guys, I have to work at it.
"I try to lead by example. Play the game the right way and something good will come out of it. I want to be a role model."
So how much longer?
"I don't know," Beltre said. "The desire is still there today. You don't know about next year. You just go day by day, week by week, year by year. Who knows if it will be there next year? Spending more time with the family, that's the biggest issue. My kids are growing up, and I want to be around. But right now they love watching me play, and they love being around the clubhouse.
"If that changes, it will be an easy decision."