For Beltran, job extends beyond on-field duty
Veteran has become valuable resource for younger Yankees teammates
NEW YORK -- On the day that Carlos Beltran was finally able to hold up a Yankees jersey and call the Bronx his office, team officials talked a lot about his switch-hitting power and his postseason pedigree as the driving forces behind his big three-year contract. The job may be to play right field, but Beltran believes there is much more to it.
Watch the dugout closely. Beltran is often in the ear of a younger player, dispensing advice or telling a story that might apply to a situation. He is even occasionally seen stepping in to serve as a media interpreter for a player who is not confident with his English, and Beltran said that is the responsibility of a veteran.
"You have to be available for the younger guys," Beltran said. "When you see something that you think can help them do better or when they're going through tough times, sometimes they don't know how to deal with those types of situations. You just have a little conversation with them, let them know that, 'Hey, you know what, man, this is baseball. You have to continue to come and work.'"
Those are the brands of positive messages that Beltran has added to the mix. This spring, an invitation appeared on a bulletin board at George M. Steinbrenner Field, notifying players about a social mixer of sorts. Beltran was the driving force, allowing the Minor League players to get some face time with the big league squad. The underlying message: We're all in this together.
"Every year I have done it differently, in different ways," Beltran said. "Sometimes I take five, 10 guys to eat. I just want to let them know that what they're going through, I went through, and if I can make it, they can make it. It's about encouraging them to work hard and take advantage of the opportunities as a ballplayer."
Beltran, 37, also picked up a memorable assist earlier this month. Rookie Yangervis Solarte has been working on his English and can hold a casual conversation, but after the infielder stroked three hits in his first big league start on April 3 in Houston, Solarte was visibly nervous when asked for a couple of on-field interviews.
While most of Solarte's teammates packed up their gear and headed down the clubhouse tunnel at Minute Maid Park, Beltran lingered on the field of the emptying stadium, serving as an interpreter while the 26-year-old Solarte completed interviews for the Yankees' television and radio broadcasts.
"That man is willing to do anything you ask him to do, whether it's putting him someplace he's never been or moving him in the order," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who has already called on Beltran to make his first career appearance at first base. "He just wants to play and he wants to contribute. It's very, very unselfish."
Even though Beltran has been one of the more productive Yankees in the early going, racking up American League Player of the Week honors for the period from April 7-13, some have mentioned a feeling that he has almost been overshadowed on this star-studded roster.
"And I feel fine with that," Beltran said. "Basically, I'm not a person that cares about that."
Beltran's comfort in the spotlight, or lack thereof, may be attributable to his prior exposure to New York. After first pitching his services to the Yankees, who were already set in center field with Bernie Williams at the time, Beltran played seven seasons with the Mets beginning in 2005.
His time there, very productive statistically, had several ups and downs and ended sourly. But other than different laundry and a change in commute, Beltran said that his first month playing for the Yankees hasn't felt all that different than being across town.
"I think you have to come, you have to do your job and you have to understand that you're going to have good days, you're going to have bad days," Beltran said. "Some days you're going to come through, some days you won't come through. You just have to deal with whatever comes. It's just part of playing in a big market."
Beltran said that he feels fortunate to be experiencing so much of his career in New York. One major difference in Beltran's second tour is a change of home address. At the urging of his wife, Jessica, Beltran parted with the Long Island home they owned during his Mets career and chose an apartment on Manhattan's East Side.
"I like it, man. My wife loves it," Beltran said. "You go down and there's a bunch of things to do. Now living in the city I'm like -- man, I missed a lot, you know? The first seven years, I didn't have the time to spend time in the city.
"My wife said the city was good, so I said, 'I want to live in a house, but if you want to live in the city, let's give it a try.' I'm in love with everything. It's so simple, so easy. Just go out and take a taxi and go here, come back. I had a car and I don't know what I'm going to do with it. I'm just happy."