Latino Sports Honors Carlos Beltrán
(Photo courtesy of NY Yankees)
By Howard Goldin
BRONX, NEW YORK, JUNE 2- A festive luncheon was held at Yankee Stadium last Friday afternoon, several hours before the first game of a seven-day home stand to welcome Carlos Beltrán to the Bronx and to the New York Yankees.
Latino Sports has previously honored Beltrán with a Latino MVP Award as Rookie of the Year in the first year of the organization’s existence, 1989. After Beltrán’s final game with the Mets, several journalists approached the baseball great to shake hands and extend well wishes for his future.
At that time, Julio Pabón, the founder and president of Latino Sports, told Beltrán that he would receive a proper greeting upon his return to New York. The baseball great returned to New York this season and the meaningful welcome was in place on Friday.
Pabón took the occasion to briefly explain the 25-year history of Latino Sports and the reason for its founding and the need for its continued existence. He also educated his audience on the history of the relationship of the New York Yankees and the residents of the surrounding community.
He introduced two specials guests, NYY General Manager Brian Cashman and Senior Vice President Corporate/Community Relations Brian Smith. The two Brians spoke in agreement with Pabón’s thoughts that relations between the organization and the community have improved.
Beltrán, a soft spoken and humble man with great talent as an athlete, graciously accepted the gifts he was presented with. His words exhibited his intelligence and maturity. His concern and gratitude to those present, especially the children, was also apparent by his manner and thoughtfulness.
Several of those in attendance, perhaps including Beltrán himself, were thinking this luncheon and Beltrán’s signing with the Yankees should have taken place a decade earlier.
At the age of 18, the native of Manatí, Puerto Rico was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the second round of the 1995 First-Year Player Draft. In his first full season with the Royals, 1999, his fine performance led to his selection as American League Rookie of the Year.
Although he drove in at least 100 runs in four of his five full seasons with Royals, the outfielder was traded to Houston in June of 2004.
On January 11, 2005, he signed with the Mets as a free agent. It was that winter that he was also in contact with the Yankees, with whom he hoped to sign. At a press conference after his free agent signing in December of 2013, Beltrán spoke of that missed opportunity by the Yankees, “I grew up being a Yankee fan, a Bernie Williams fan. I used to look up to this organization. They always did what it takes to put good teams out there and in championships. Eight-nine years ago, hey couldn’t commit to the years I wanted. They were having problems with the salary cap. They got Randy Johnson and I signed with the Mets.”
What the Yankees passed up by not signing Beltrán can be understood by his being chosen as a National League All-Star in five of his seven seasons with the Mets.
After two All-Star seasons with the Cardinals, the eight-time All-Star is finally a Yankee. His personal background makes him very comfortable and very pleased to be playing in the Bronx, “I’m proud that on this side of town we have a lot of Puerto Ricans. I have a double responsibility, representing the Yankees and representing my country.” His loyalty and pride in his homeland was also exhibited by his membership on Puerto Rico’s national team in all three sessions of the World Baseball Classic (WBC)-2006, 2009 and 2013.
Using different words than he spoke in December, the meaning of Beltrán’s words were the same, “I am proud to be a Latino. I like to walk in the barrio because that’s where I come from.”
He also spoke of his love and respect for his parents, “I come from a humble family. God gave me the ability to play baseball [but I am] more proud of my parents for giving me values.”
Beltrán has not only conducted himself as a gentleman, but is a socially conscious individual. He has been involved in numerous positive endeavors during his career, especially those that are beneficial to children. He realizes his position as a renowned major league baseball star comes with responsibility, “My opportunity as a baseball player is to give back. I want to do something for the Latino community. Every day I live I try to impact other people’s lives. I believe we can change lives. We are going to work on a project to benefit the people.”
His efforts and accomplishments have been recognized with his being the recipient of the Thurman Munson Award in 2009, the Joan Payson Award in 2010 and the Roberto Clemente Award in 2013.
Although Beltrán is currently on the disabled list with a bone spur on his right elbow, he is working hard to prevent the need for surgery and an absence of 10-12 weeks.
His record on the field and his character off the field have merited him consideration of one day being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. If he successfully completes his contract with the Yankees, one day there may be a luncheon in Beltrán’s honor to celebrate his election to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
The ceremony brought good feelings to all present, regardless of age or personal background. The food was delicious and plentiful, and more importantly, the atmosphere was joyful and very positive. The guest of honor was very deserving of so meaningful a display of affection and respect.