Beltran visits Mets minicamp
Center fielder jets to Florida with club brass, top pick
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The paparazzi started gathering near the parking lot of the Mets' minor league complex just before 10 a.m. Wednesday, hoping to snap the obligatory pictures of Carlos Beltran as he stepped out of the car and into the world of New York baseball.
The only problem was that none of the photographers knew what Beltran looked like, so when little-known reliever Bartolome Fortunato came strolling through the gate around 11 a.m. wearing an expensive silk shirt and flanked by a few minor leaguers, the flash bulbs started popping.
The shouts of "Carlos turn around" echoed throughout the foyer of the clubhouse as Fortunato, though curious about the attention, kept walking.
"Who did they think I was?" he asked as he stepped inside the door.
When informed that they thought he was Beltran, Fortunato laughed.
The same scene played out about an hour later as a black luxury car pulled up to the gate, snapping the troop of photographers to attention. Once again the flashbulbs started to pop, and this time, the figure that emerged was a Hall of Famer. Mets catching instructor Gary Carter, who recently had ligament surgery on his right foot, hobbled out of the car with his crutches in tow as the groans again rose up from the crowd of shutterbugs.
Beltran ultimately arrived around noon, though, and the swarm of photographers finally got their wish, as did the 50 or so autograph seekers who had gathered, waiting on the Mets' new center fielder. Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, general manager Omar Minaya and senior vice president of baseball operations Jim Duquette also made the trip down from New York, along with newly signed first-round draft pick Phil Humber.
The entourage, which included Beltran's family, pulled up in a trio of white sport utility vehicles, completing the whole caravan effect. New York's $119 million man was once again the center of attention, a practice that will certainly be a precursor to every move he makes when Spring Training begins next month.
Beltran wasn't at minicamp to work out, though. He said he wanted to tour the Tradition Field facility and press a few hands with his new teammates before heading down to Puerto Rico for Thursday's press conference in his native country, an event that will likely rival and perhaps even surpass the magnitude of the one held in New York. Beltran walked out onto the field during the team's workout, followed by the group of photographers.
Many of the players came over and introduced themselves, and Orber Moreno, a former teammate with the Royals, greeted Beltran with a big smile and a hug. One by one, the players, almost sheepishly, walked over and offered a hand and encouraging words.
"This is a great experience for me, being able to get things done with the Mets," Beltran said. "The Mets are headed in the right direction with Omar. They have guys that know a lot about baseball, and I believe the team will turn around pretty soon.
|Carlos Beltran / CF|
Weight: 190 lbs
Bats: S / Throws: R
"My role right now is to just do the right things. I'm going to let the young guys follow me and just do things right. I feel happy and secure, and now I have an opportunity to help my family and a lot of people. I'm not going to change at all. I'm going to work hard and be an example for the young guys. Money doesn't change people. Only you can change you."
Humber seemed slightly awed by Beltran and the fact that the two shared a spot on the Wilpon's private jet down to Florida. He was also in New York on Tuesday when Beltran was introduced at Shea Stadium, enjoying the atmosphere.
"Carlos is in the position that the rest of us want to be in," Humber said. "And getting to see some of the things that went on yesterday is a good position to be in. I was honored that he was gracious enough to have me [fly]."
Beltran eventually walked off the field, flanked by Mets security and staff, stopping to sign some more autographs and take pictures. He finally disappeared into the minor league offices as the crowd began to disperse.
The buzz, however, remained, just as the Mets hoped it would.
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.