By Howard Goldin
BRONX, NEW YORK, JUNE 28-The three-day series between the Yankees and Texas Rangers was a special thrill to Rangers rookie Engel Beltre. The 23 year-old was born in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, yet travelling with his teammates to the Bronx was a trip to memories of his childhood.
Beltre made his major league debut as a pinch runner in the ninth inning of Wednesday night’s contest at Yankee Stadium. Interestingly, that game was not his first played at the iconic ballpark in the Bronx. Beltre was a member of the regularly high ranked James Monroe baseball team when the Governors faced Thomas Jefferson in the PSAL high school baseball championship in Beltre’s junior year.
On Thursday afternoon, Beltre received the honor of starting his first big league game as Texas’s centerfielder. The nerves he probably felt were not exhibited by his outstanding performance. He made the first Texas putout in the first frame on a fly ball by Jayson Nix and the final putout of the contest in the ninth on another fly ball by Nix.
The former Bronx resident singled to right in his first big league trip to the plate. He singled again in his final at bat in the contest in the eighth. He expressed what it meant to him after the game, “I’ve been working and preparing for this moment. I’m so happy to be here. The thing I always wanted [was] to play in Yankee Stadium. My family gets to see me. It’s a great moment for me.”
Beltre spent several childhood years in the Bronx. He lived in the borough from the age of 11 through 16. He was a devoted fan of the New York Yankees and on the baseball squads at DeWitt Clinton and James Monroe high schools. He gave great credit to the preparation he gained in the high schools in the Bronx, “I played a lot and I learned a lot that helped me when I started my pro career. Both schools helped me a lot. They will always be in my mind.”
Beltre signed a pro contract with the Boston Red Sox at the age of 16 as a non-drafted free agent. He was traded to Texas in the summer of 2007. In his several seasons in the minors, he never rose above AA.