NEW YORK -- After 19 seasons in the Majors that include eight All-Star Games, three Gold Gloves, two Silver Slugger Awards and a Rookie of the Year Award, Carlos Beltran's accomplishments still surprise him.
Beltran became the 54th member of the 400 home run club Sunday, smashing a Zach Duke pitch out to left field to give the Yankees a one-run lead in the sixth inning of Sunday's 7-5 win over the White Sox.
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"I never thought I was going to be able to get to the point that I am now," Beltran said. "I knew I had a passion for the game of baseball, I've always been a hard worker. But when you accomplish something like this, it really means a lot for me, my family in Puerto Rico and to my country."
The 39-year-old is just the fourth switch-hitter to reach 400, joining Mickey Mantle (536), Eddie Murray (504) and Chipper Jones (468). He joins teammate Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, David Ortiz, Adrian Beltre and Miguel Cabrera as the active players to have reached this milestone. Fellow Yankee Mark Teixeira is three away from becoming the club's 55th member.
The blast made Beltran the third Puerto Rican born player to hit the mark, along with Carlos Delgado (473) and Juan Gonzalez (434). Beltran is the fifth Major Leaguer to record 400 home runs and 300 steals, along with Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Willie Mays and Andre Dawson.
Being mentioned alongside such great names baffled Beltran, with the veteran outfielder saying that just being considered in such company motivates him to finish his career in a way that justifies the comparisons. But in manager Joe Girardi's book, those players are Beltran's peers.
"I think it's a Hall of Famer in front of us," Girardi said. "You look at his body of work, you look at his stolen bases, he played center field, the RBIs, everything together."
And when you look at the players he's being mentioned with, it's not too large of a leap to make. But to Beltran, the case isn't quite as simple. While he did say hearing those discussions challenges him to validate the possibility, he also said that he's seen plenty of players with comparable or better careers to his that haven't ended up in Cooperstown, leading him to doubt the possibility.
Regardless of the final outcome, Sunday's home run ensured that Beltran has achieved nearly everything that a hitter can achieve. But it's that caveat -- that "nearly" -- which drives Beltran to hit more home runs, play more games, and possibly rack up a few more achievements along the way.
"I've always been a guy that I don't get caught up into numbers, because for me what is important is trying to win a championship," Beltran said. "And that's something that I've never experienced in my baseball career. I've been to All-Star Games, I've won Gold Gloves and [Silver Sluggers], accomplished things. But winning a World Series is the greatest accomplishment that you can get as a ballplayer."