OPINION COLUMNS

Establishing boundaries as impressive as milestone

By Joy Carrico | Published Saturday, July 22, 2017
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We Rangers fans are all very excited for Adrian Beltre to reach the milestone of 3,000 hits.

He’s currently at 2,985. I’m sure this number will be old news by the time this column is published. In some ways, things change quickly in baseball. In other ways, not so much.

Joy Carrico

What will 3,000 hits mean? When he pounds out hit No. 3,000, he will be tied with Roberto Clemente for 30th place for most career hits. With No. 3001, he’ll surpass Clemente and edge the old Pirate down to No. 31 on the list.

By the way, there is one player ahead of him in this race who is still racking up numbers – Ichiro Suzuki (3,056), and on Beltre’s heels is Albert Pujols at 2,908.

Everyone else in the top 50 is retired and many no longer alive.

Beltre is No. 32 right now for career hits. He’s also No. 38 in career home runs with 453. We don’t talk about him climbing up that ladder, though. Perhaps the home run race still leaves a bad taste in our mouth after Barry Bonds refused to let us steal his joy back in 2007.

3,000 hits is a nice round number. 30th place is a nice round number. So we’re all looking for 3,000 for 30 for Beltre.

Does it really mean anything though? Is hit No. 3,000 more special than hit No. 2,999 or No. 3,003? I don’t think so, and I seriously doubt Beltre cares all that much about reaching 3,000, except maybe to be glad to have it over with. Where he’s at now, should he never get another hit, is pretty impressive. 2,985 hits is a lot of success at the plate over the course of a career. The vast majority of baseball players come nowhere close to this.

Honestly, the count up to 3,000 feels like a publicity stunt to get rear-ends in seats. The Rangers’ record this year certainly isn’t doing that.

I’m proud of Beltre for a different reason. He’s managing an accomplishment that few have noticed, although the broadcasters have paid some attention to it. He’s managing to stop people from touching his head after a home run.

Last year, every time he hit a home run another player (usually Elvis Andrus) would remove his batting helmet and the head touching would commence. It was very clear by Beltre’s behavior that he truly hated this experience.

It became such a “thing” that the Rangers gave away a Beltre bobble head with a removable helmet so we could touch his head too. I ranted about this last summer, in case you missed it.

I have wondered if Adrian Beltre dreads hitting home runs because he knows that every time he does, this deeply unpleasant experience will follow. Without all this head-touching, he might have been closer to the top on the career home runs record.

This year things are different. I noticed right away that he was fighting back on the helmet removal/head touching ritual. I saw him actually taking swings at Andrus as he ran back to the dugout, which made me cheer louder than the home run did.

After a few post home run battles back to the dugout, I recently saw him successfully hit a home run and make it back to the dugout without anyone removing his helmet.

I was overjoyed about this (no pun intended – ever). I raved about it like I’d just witnessed the greatest play of all time. It was more important to me than the home run (hit number 2,981) or the outcome of the game (Texas 5; Kansas City 3).

I don’t know what measures he takes off the field, but his change of behavior on the field – fighting back – seems to be getting the message across to his teammates that he does not want them to touch his head. And he’s not kidding about it.

Setting and holding boundaries is one of the toughest skills to acquire in life. Being able to say “No,” to be heard and to hold on to “no” as the answer is nearly impossible. It takes a concentrated effort and lots of practice to get good at. It is harder than hitting a home run or 3,000 hits. Think about it, in 20 seasons, Beltre has hit more than 450 home runs but he’s just started having success at getting his teammates to stop harassing him.

And it’s more important. As much as it pains me to admit, Beltre will retire from baseball sooner rather than later, and his ability to hit a baseball will lose a lot of its relevance in his day-to-day life. But the man, although near retirement, is only 38, and has plenty of life left to get through. An ability to set and maintain boundaries will serve him well for the rest of it.

People do eventually give up trying to get you to do something when they figure out that no really does mean no. And even Andrus, a boundary-violator of the highest order, will stop trying to touch Beltre’s head if Beltre holds on to his “no” long enough.

Eventually, he won’t have to throw punches anymore as he makes his way back to the dugout, and he can finally enjoy his home runs without fear of the molestation that follows.

Good job Beltre, this is a real accomplishment.

Joy Carrico is a Messenger graphic artist

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