Love Of Country Drives Adrian Beltre To Play In WBC

Wearing the Dominican Republic uniform inspires Adrian Beltre (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

DENVERAdrian Beltre is finally going to get a chance in this year's World Baseball Classic to be a member of the defending champion team from his native Dominican Republic.

The 37-year-old Rangers third baseman joined the Dominican team in early March but did not commit to playing in the first round of the WBC. That's because he dealt with a sore left calf in the early weeks of spring training.

“Obviously I want to play for my country," Beltre said. “I want to help (the Dominican Republic) repeat what it did in (winning the WBC tournament) in 2013. The last two times I was injured and couldn't play."

How much Beltre will play remains to be decided. But he will be there, in uniform, in the dugout, a part of the activity. Beltre also knows it is important that once the Classic has concluded, he is healthy and ready to play for the Rangers in what will be his 20th and potentially final major league season.

Beltre does, after all, turn 38 on April 7. And he does have one major void in a career that should see him easily reach the 58 hits necessary to become the 31st member of the 3,000-hit club—a World Series championship.

“That's the thing that keeps me going," Beltre said. “I have had a decent career. I have accomplished a couple of things. I make good money, but I want to be a champion. That is what drives me. We have been close, really close."

How close has Beltre come to victory? His Rangers won consecutive American League pennants yet lost the 2010 World Series in five games to the Giants and then suffered a seven-game loss to the Cardinals in 2011. Texas lost the final two games in 2011, including an 11-inning, 10-9 loss in Game Six.

“I haven't come out on top," Beltre said. “My window is closing. I'm pretty sure if we win this year, it's going to make it easier for me to decide to go home and enjoy my kids. But for now, it is difficult for me to go home, because I haven't gotten the win that I want."

Looking Ahead

Beltre's challenge won't begin until April. His focus in March was on the Classic and his left calf, which was a factor in his decision to remain with the Rangers and not join the Dominican Republic for its exhibition games.

“I want to stay (in Rangers camp) as long as I can to get more treatment," Beltre said of the decision. “I talked to Moises (Alou, general manager of the Dominican team) to let him know exactly what I was going to do."

Beltre made no promises even after he joined the Dominican team.

“Even though I am going to go and be prepared to play in the first round, it doesn't mean I have to be in the lineup," he said. “We have a lot of good players on the team. I am going to be one of the players and hopefully contribute."

If Beltre is healthy, then rest assured that he will contribute. He is coming off a season in which he played 153 games while hitting .300 with 32 home runs and 104 RBIs. He won his fifth AL Gold Glove at third base.

For his career, Beltre owns a .286 average with 2,942 hits, 445 home runs, 591 doubles and 1,571 RBIs. He ranks third on the all-time hits list for third basemen and second for doubles, while placing fourth for both homers and RBIs.

Dominican Pride

Beltre draws emotional motivation for the WBC by wearing the uniform of the Dominican Republic.

“I am proud to be Dominican," said Beltre, who debuted in the majors at age 19 with the 1998 Dodgers. “I am proud to represent my country. I enjoy playing the game, and then to be able to do that for the people back home is special. We know the people in the Dominican are behind us. They are proud of (the 2013 title)."

Beltre had to watch that event unfold from afar. This time, he is going to be in uniform as one of the players representing his country.

This time, a Dominican championship would mean even more for Beltre. Because this time, he can be a part of making it happen.