Former Royals great Carlos Beltran announced his retirement on Monday, and he wrote a retrospective on his career for The Players’ Tribune.
Beltran is going out on top — he was with the Astros this season and they won the World Series earlier this month. Beltran wept on the field after Houston won the championship, and there had been speculation that he would retire.
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In his 20-year career, Beltran played for seven teams, and made an instant impact with the Royals, winning the Rookie of the Year award in 1999. Beltran was first called up to Kansas City a year earlier, and he recounted that moment in his essay for The Players’ Tribune (which has the title “Muchas Gracias, Béisbol”):
I was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the second round and came to the United States. A couple of years later, in 1998, my dad, my mom and my brother found themselves in Wichita, Kansas, watching me play in the playoffs with the Double A Wichita Wranglers.
We got eliminated that night, and after the game I was packing up my locker and preparing to go back to Puerto Rico with my family when my manager, John Mizerock — came into the clubhouse and said, “Hey, Carlos, don’t go. I need to talk to you. I’m just waiting on a phone call.”
At this point, you know, it’s late. I’m kind of tired. I don’t want to wait. My family is waiting for me in the parking lot, and I’m thinking that I had a good year — I grew a lot as a player, and now it’s time for me to go play winter ball in Puerto Rico and keep working to get better and come back next year and hopefully get an opportunity. So really, I just want to go home.
Then the phone rings. John answers, talks for maybe one second and then he calls me into his office.
“Congratulations, Carlos. You’re going to the big leagues.”
I’m like, “What? Me! I’m going to the big leagues!”
It was so unexpected because I had not even played in Triple A, where guys usually get called up from. It was such a surprise — a happy surprise. I went to the parking lot and I told my family, and we all just started jumping up and down.
Then we got into our cars and we drove from Wichita to Kansas City.
Looking back, I’m very happy my family was there with me to share that moment.
Beltran also wrote about when he arrived at Kauffman Stadium for the first time and making his debut on Sept. 14, 1998 against the Oakland A’s.
The manager was Tony Muser, and he said to me, “I don’t know how many opportunities you’re going to get, Carlos, but I want to congratulate you. Welcome to the big leagues.”
I said, “You know, I don’t really care how many opportunities I get. I just want you to know that whenever you need me, I’m going to be ready for you.”
Well, that night, in the seventh inning, Tony yelled down the dugout to me, “Carlos! You’re going to centerfield.”
Johnny Damon was playing centerfield, and they moved him over to right to put me in center. And I remember thinking that Johnny had been the Royals’ centerfielder for the last two years. And for them to put me — a kid who just came up from Double A — out in his place? That meant something. They didn’t have to say anything to me. I could feel it in my heart that they were sending me a message that they believed I could play centerfield for this team.
So I finished out the season — maybe 14 games total — and then I went home to Puerto Rico and worked extremely hard that off-season to get better. I got stronger. I got faster. And when I came back for spring training, I was ready to compete.
When the season started, the team announced that they were moving Johnny Damon to left field, and that I would be the full-time centerfielder. That was the start of my major league career.
With the Royals, Beltran made his first of his nine All-Star Game appearances, and he batted .287 with 123 home runs, 156 doubles, 45 triples, 164 stolen bases and 516 RBIs in 795 games with Kansas City during 1998-2004.
In the essay, Beltran wrote about when he was traded from the Royals to the Astros in 2004, and how he had hoped to play his entire career with one team, like George Brett.
You can read the whole essay here.