By Rich Coutinho
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After every game, the reporters gather around and all ask Carlos Beltran the same questions. When do you think you will be traded? Who do you want to get traded to? Do you think about it much? It is all so predictable and that is because most reporters never took the time is this town to get to know Carlos Beltran.

I did and I am a better person for it — one that understands you don’t have to be the loudest voice in the room to be a leader. That you can still hold God first in your life and be as competitive as the next guy. That you can learn as much about yourself when things go wrong as you could when everything is rosy. And that professionalism and class will always form your legacy in life.

Beltran and I spent a lot of time the past few years talking about this and if you don’t think it forced me to re-assess things in my life, you are sadly mistaken. We sometimes forget in the years 2006-2008 he was a great run producer — eclipsing 110 RBI’s in every one of those years. Although much time is devoted to the last pitch of the 2006 NLCS, many people forget on the last day in Shea it was Beltran who nearly pulled the Mets by the scruff of the neck through the fire with a game-tying 2-run homer. And if not for a leaky bullpen, the Mets might have seen the post-season. Yet, Beltran did not need credit or acknowledgment for this — nor for all of the hours he spends in the community giving of his personal time whether it is in New York or Puerto Rico.

Beltran has a clear mission — be the best husband, best father, best Christian, best friend, and best ballplayer he can be every single day. And while his days in a Met uniform might be numbered, he is savoring every last moment. “You know Rich I love being in this uniform,” said Beltran, “and my heart is here. We have stars like Jose Reyes, David Wright, and Johan Santana and I know the future is bright. And I’ve been around the minor league complex a lot rehabbing in the past few years. So, I can safely tell you there is more talent down there than people think, but it is raw talent which needs time to be developed.”

I asked Beltran if I gave him a magic wand where would he want to be next year. “That is easy — here as a Met because there is unfinished business. Unfortunately,this is a business and Sandy Alderson has to do what is best for the organization. For me, I don’t necessarily think we are that far away and leaving would be tough.”

What will be real tough is replacing his run production in the order which at last look was one of the most productive bats in the sport. But what is really disappointing is the Met fans never warmed up to Beltran until this year. They let others dictate how he would be perceived. And the greatest lesson I learned from Beltran in the seven seasons I’ve been around him is evaluate people with your own formula and most importantly, how they treat you. I readily admit that is hard to do when as a fan you don’t have the chance to know a person on that level.

But take Beltran out of the equation. Think about all the people you work with for instance. How many times have you formulated an opinion on rumor or here say? And later you found out that information was incorrect or at the very least misconstrued? It would have been easy for me to take everyone’s word about Beltran and not get to know him. It also might have been the popular thing to do to blend in with my colleagues. It might have been all those things but it also would have been wrong. What is popular is not always right, and what is right is not always popular.

That is why I enjoyed being around Carlos Beltran the past seven seasons. I got to watch a gifted athlete who was very aware that he was lucky to have these gifts. Makes you stop and think how lucky we are as well. Sure, we are not professional athletes (we all know that by looking at our paystubs) but nonetheless, we can all take a step back and be thankful. What I would really like is the chance to see him in a Met uniform for a few more years but I know that will not be the case. And I understand the business reasons behind that decision. But I will always remember Carlos Beltran as a Met who exhibited the qualities of hunger and humility and did it in the classiest way imaginable.

How do you feel about Beltran? Leave a comment below.

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