So the head thing. It’s real, Adrian Beltre swears, real in the same way the word moist sends a shiver down the spine of some people and clowns terrify others. He doesn’t want it to be this way. One of these offseasons, Beltre said, he’s going to let his family members touch the top of his head, his Kryptonite, maybe once a day, then twice, then more, so when he gets to spring training and his teammates sneak attack him with a head pat, he can stand there and act like nothing is happening.
“It’s my fault,” Beltre said, with some faux regret, because the head thing, like the back-knee swing, like the on-field playfulness, like the death stares that could bore holes through tungsten, is part of his oeuvre, which now is packed with two decades of excellence. Reaching 3,000 hits, as Beltre did when he uncorked his million-moving-pieces swing Sunday and ripped a double down the left-field line, always prompts a celebration of a player’s legacy, and his is as rich with idiosyncrasy and inimitability as any baseball player in recent memory. And part of it stems from a moment of weakness during a chat with his friend and old Seattle Mariners teammate Felix Hernandez about his head.
“He thought because I have waves in my hair I didn’t want it to be touched,” Beltre said. “I didn’t tell him why. Then one day I told him, ‘I don’t like it.’ And after that, he tried to do it all the time. It was stupid of me.”
When Beltre left Seattle for Boston, Hernandez told fellow Venezuelans Victor Martinez and Marco Scutaro about the cranial Achilles. “It doesn’t hurt,” Beltre said. “It’s just discomfort.” Their dugout antics turned Beltre’s crown viral, and over the past seven years, as he has burnished his Hall of Fame credentials with the Texas Rangers, whose cap he’ll wear into Cooperstown one day, all of Beltre’s foibles have been laid bare by Elvis Andrus and other teammates.
To them, he is a father figure, a fun uncle and a mischievous brother, a priest from whom they seek counsel and a fellow parishioner in the church of baseball. He is the best teammate in the game and the toughest son of a bitch they know, and that’s the deepest truth about him: for all the attention paid to his head, the story of what truly drives Adrian Beltre is best told by another body part. [/restrict]