Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Adrian Beltre's 3,000th Hit Part V: The Moment

Well here it is...July 30, 2017. The date of the biggest milestone of Adrian Beltre's career, and the moment we have been working up to over the past few days. Of course, unlike with Randy Johnson's 300th win which had to encompass the entire game, the hit is only a small moment of a much longer game. Would this include a play by play of the game up to and maybe after that point? You betcha. Would it have the stuff I did up to the start of the game? Of course. But clearly the 3,000th Hit will be the highlight.

Or the Complete Story About How I Got to See Another One of the Greatest Milestones in the History of Baseball

Part I: The Introduction
Part II: The Player
Part III: The Set-Up
Part IV: The Letdown
Part V: The Moment (you are here)
Part VI: The Aftermath (July 30)

I woke up a little past 9:00 on the morning of July 30, 2017, which was somewhat of a minor miracle considering I wasn't able to get to sleep until well after 3:00 in a morning from a combination of the late night and the excitement. Candlewood Suites where I was staying doesn't serve breakfast unlike their cousins Holiday Inn Express, but I had some leftover pizza to eat. The game wasn't due to start until 2:00, so I figured the gates would open at noon or so. I didn't really think of anything else I needed to do, so I packed up my things, loaded up the car, checked out of the hotel, and drove to Arlington.

Back when I lived in Fort Worth and was able to go to games with some level of regularity, there was a cash parking lot next to the Arlington Information Center that I liked parking at. It's not too far from the ballpark and is generally pretty cheap. However, it was also quite small so you'd have to get there early to snag a spot. It was about 10:00 when I got to the ballpark. When I arrived the people taking the cash hadn't arrived yet. Since it was early enough I waited around, and sure enough shortly afterward a car pulled in and some of the cash lot employees came out. They came up and asked for the $15 cash fee, which I had ready, and got the ticket to ensure that I can park there. Once I got it, I took my sign and headed to the ballpark.

When I crossed the street and got to the ballpark, I realized that I had forgotten my ticket. I suppose I could use my phone to pull up StubHub and scan the ticket from there, but it's much more convenient to have the ticket with me. I had to turn around and trek back to my car and pick up the ticket. By the time I got there somebody else had parked and was ready to head to the ballpark. We walked over together. He said he was from Waco, and when he found out that Adrian Beltre didn't get his 3,000th hit yesterday he bought a ticket and drove up for the chance to see the milestone. By the time we got to the First Base Gate, there was nobody there. We didn't want to wait in the hot sun, so he suggested we walk to the tunnel where players drove in.

There were a couple of people waiting around when we got to the tunnel. They said all of the players had already went in. However, the area was shaded so we waited there instead. The person from Waco found some people he knew, so he chatted with them while I made small talk with the others. One person was from out near the Abilene area and the other person was out past DFW near Weatherford or something. They said they make a few games a year, but they sure wanted to come to this one because of the chance to see history. I suppose without a bobble-head to give away the people that would be drawn to this game would be the ones that want to see history. At around 11:00 I decided that I should probably brave the blazing hot sun and go wait at the First Base Gate. I headed over and waited in line, once again using my sign as a makeshift umbrella. Eventually people started trickling in behind me. They all said they wanted to see Adrian go for history. It makes sense, because why else would people want to go to the ballpark on a brutally sunny other than to watch some baseball history?

Some baseball history was happening on July 30, 2017 even without the prospects of Adrian's milestone. The Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies were happening in Cooperstown, New York over 1,600 miles away. The list of former players and executives being honored were former Commissioner Allan Huber "Bud" Selig, former Royals and Braves general manager John Schuerholz, former Astros first baseman Jeffrey Robert Bagwell, and former Expos outfielder Tim "Rock" Raines. However, the one player that has all Rangers fans buzzing was former Rangers superstar catcher Ivan "Pudge 2.0" Rodriguez. It was the first time since 1999 that a player was going in as a Ranger. The confluence of history for the Rangers was unmistakable. Rodriguez even said that if Adrian Beltre gets his 3,000th hit before his speech, then he will say something congratulating Adrian on his momentous achievement.

While waiting in line in Arlington, I tried to watch some of the Hall of Fame ceremonies on my phone, but it was way too bright to get a good view, and it was all commercials anyways, so I quickly gave up on that. Eventually the security officers for the ballpark came out to set up. They remembered my sign from yesterday. I remembered that the gates open a little later on Sunday day games and asked for confirmation. They confirmed that gates will indeed open at 12:30. So that's another 30 more minutes of waiting.

At last, the clock struck 12:30 and the security officers got the okay to let us all in. I went and got my ticket scanned, and hurried down to the field level. For this game I splurged and got seats in section 36 down next to the field. I looked at where my seat was going to be, and then went down next to the field in front of my seat. There was no batting practice going on, possibly because it was too darned hot and sunny. The Jumbotron was playing scenes from the Hall of Fame ceremonies. When I got down, the Hall of Famers were making their introduction. I the Hall of Famers were introduced one by one with videos from their career. I noticed somebody goofed and showed Nolan Ryan's videos when somebody else was being introduced. The segment ended with the newest Hall of Famers being introduced. Cheers rang around the ballpark when Ivan Rodriguez made his entrance. I became curious whether they will show his speech perhaps between innings of the game.

It became clear that nobody was going to come out and sign any autographs, so once the introductions were over I retreated a few rows back to where my seats were. I held up my sign, and a cameraman for Fox Sports saw it. He asked to film it for a little bit, so I complied. Then he thanked me and went on. I have no idea what would become of that. The Jumbotron switched away from the Hall of Fame ceremonies and showed the lineup for the day. The Orioles started out with the same top three as the day before, with center fielder Adam Jones, third baseman Manny Machado, and second baseman Jonathan Schoop. DH Trey Mancini, who had one of the home runs the night before, was moved up to the cleanup role. First baseman Chris Davis, moved down to the number five spot. Catcher Welington Castillo from the Dominican Republic was doing the catching and hitting sixth. Left fielder Joey Rickard hit seventh, shortstop Ruben Tejada was hitting and eighth, and right fielder Craig Gentry, a former Ranger, was hitting ninth. For the Rangers, Adrian was hitting cleanup again. The leadoff spot went to Delino DeShields, who was playing left, followed by shortstop Elvis Andrus and right fielder Nomar Mazara. Then following Adrian was once again Mike Napoli, now DHing, followed by second baseman Rougned Odor and center fielder Carlos Gomez. Robinson Chirinos was at catcher and hitting eighth, while Joey Gallo was hitting ninth and playing first base.

On the mound for the Rangers was lefty Martin Perez. I was more than familiar with Martin Perez. He was signed out of Venezuela in 2007, and was one of the Rangers' top pitching prospects for most of the first half of the decade. He made his major league debut in 2012 and was hit hard. He pitched much better in 2013, but tore his ulnar collateral ligament early in 2014 and had to get Tommy John surgery. He came back successfully a year later and was durable if not spectacular. This would be the sixth time that I saw one of his starts, breaking a tie with Colby Lewis for most times watching a pitcher in my own personal experience. His previous five starts were pretty terrible, which soured me towards him. He had gone 1-3 in those five stars with a 6.14 ERA, and included such important games as the 2013 Tiebreak game, Game 3 of the 2015 ALCS, and a late season match-up against the Astros. Of course, the only time I've seen him win was against the Orioles, on August 29, 2015. And he had pitched well a year earlier on July 30, 2016, with a seven-inning effort against the Royals where he allowed only one run. Still, he was going into this game 5-8 with a 4.67 ERA.

The Orioles were countering with Wade Miley, also a left-hander. Miley is a southeastern Louisiana native who was drafted initially out of high school in the 20th round in 2005 before going to college and jumping up to the supplemental first round in 2008, where he was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks as a compensation pick for them losing Livan Hernandez. He progressed up the minor league chain steadily but was never considered a top prospect. He was called up in September 2011 and pitched at replacement level. It was enough for him to receive an invitation to big league camp in 2012 and threw well enough to make the Arizona starting rotation. He dazzled out of the gate, winning his first three decisions and keeping his ERA generally under 3.00 through the end of June. He made the All-Star team, and finished the season 16-11 with a 3.33 ERA. He was considered a prime candidate for Rookie of the Year, but finished second by only seven votes to Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals. He threw well again in 2013, but had a mediocre year in 2014. He was traded to the Boston Red Sox where he had another mediocre year, and was traded to the Seattle Mariners where he was mediocre and they traded him to Baltimore on July 31, 2016, whereupon he was just plain bad. He wasn't much better so far in 2017, with a 4-9 record and a 5.69 ERA.

Shortly before the game before I caught a couple of players playing toss in the area in front of the Rangers dugout. One of those was Adrian. He was intently focused on playing catch, so I just took a couple of pictures. I thought that I'd get a good view, but then people started streaming in all around me. It got to be where I was nervous just holding my sign up so I kept it down. Eventually the clock struck 2:00, and the game was ready to begin. Martin Perez threw a ball to Adam Jones for the first pitch, and I had a bad feeling. Thankfully, Jones grounded a ball to Adrian, who threw him out without any problems. Machado followed with another grounder to Adrian. Martin struck out Schoop to finish the top of the first with no damage.

As the cleanup hitter, Adrian needed at least one of the first three batters to reach in order to get a plate appearance in the first inning. However, neither DeShields nor Elvis could figure out Wade Miley, as DeShields struck out and Elvis was called out on strikes on a full count fastball. Nomar ended the inning by grounding out to Schoop at second, and Adrian had to wait until the second inning to get this first plate appearance. At this point I was trying to keep track of the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, but the crowd was so loud I couldn't tell anything. All I knew was that Bud Selig was speaking. No thank you. Martin Perez came out for the top of the second and allowed a single to Mancini, who had hit the first home run off of Austin Bibens-Dirkx the night before. I was waiting for the bottom to fall out for Martin, but then he came back to strike out former Ranger Chris Davis, and got Castillo and Rickard to pop out.

As soon as the last out was made, the crowd started to roar, and not just because Martin Perez got through the second inning unscathed. The roar got louder as Wade Miley finished his warmup tosses, and public address announced called, "Now batting, third baseman Adrian Beltre!" The crowd stood up and his family stood ready to run onto the field. Miley's first pitch to Adrian was a called strike. The second pitch was up and in and Adrian had to bend backwards to avoid. Pitch number three was down by Adrian's feet and he had to skip out of the way. There was no way he was going to hit those. The fourth pitch was inside, and the count was now three balls and one strike. The crowd started grumbling. We all thought it was pretty cowardly of Miley to walk Adrian rather than risk giving up the milestone hit. The next pitch was also inside and Adrian thought it was ball four. He was running towards first base when the home plate umpire, minor league call-up umpire Chris Segal, called it strike two. The crowd was really booing at this time, because now the Rangers wouldn't be able to get a base-runner. However, he does get another pitch to get the milestone hit. Miley's next pitch was a sinker well below the strike zone. Adrian struggled early in his career to lay off those sinking pitches. Part of his success late in his career was his ability to recognize and avoid swinging at the pitches beneath the strike zone. However, either because of the gravity of the situation or because he was just plain fooled, he swung over the pitch and struck out.

The entire crowd groaned at the strikeout. Adrian has now had three hitless plate appearances since hit number 2,999. It was even worse when Napoli struck out for out number two. Odor tried getting on by a bunt, but he hit the ball too hard and Miley was able to easily field the ball and throw to first for the out. In the third, Martin led off with two balls against Tejada, but then evened the count, and on the fifth pitch Tejada lined one towards center. Center fielder Gomez came over and made a fine running catch to record the out. Gentry followed with an infield hit, but he got too eager dancing off the basepaths, and Martin picked him off as he took off running for the second out. It took Martin only two more pitches to strike out Jones to end the third inning. Rangers fans were hoping that the Rangers can get a rally going to put some runners on, score some runs, and get Adrian up to the plate before the end of the inning. Carlos Gomez did his part, grounding a single through the left side of the infield. However, Miley struck out Chirinos for his fifth strikeout of the day. Gallo lofted a fly ball deep to center field. Left fielder Rickard was positioned to catch it, but he saw center fielder Jones racing over. He deferred to the veteran who ran and made the catch. DeShields lined a ball to right, but right fielder Gentry was able to make the catch. So much for a rally.

By this time Ivan Rodriguez had started to make his speech. Martin Perez would have to get through the fourth quickly if Adrian was to get another chance before Pudge 2.0 finishes with his speech. Martin had been pitching well through the first three innings, but in the fourth the bottom fell off. Manny Machado led off with a booming double, and Schoop walked. The next three hitters Mancini, Davis, and Castillo all singled to give the Orioles a 3-0 lead, and the Orioles still had runners on first and second with no outs. So much for Martin Perez pitching well. Rickard hit a long fly ball that curved into foul territory. DeShields made nice running catch on it for the first out, but both Davis and Castillo tagged up to go to second and third. The next batter Tejada bounced a ball to the left side of the infield. Elvis fielded it and saw Castillo running to third. He made an easy toss to Adrian who ran over and give Castillo a big bear hug to record the second out. However, Davis scored on the play to give the Orioles a 4-0 lead, the same score as the final score the night before. Gentry grounded out to end the inning.

By the time the fourth inning was over, Rodriguez was wrapping up his speech, and the longtime Expos leadoff man Tim Raines was getting ready to give his. Meanwhile the crowd was fuming at the deficit. I had gotten myself another Sno-blast, this time one in the Cherry Sub-Lime flavor. However, Adrian was guaranteed to come up in this inning. They were hoping that some runners can get on base for Adrian to "clean up." Elvis worked the count full, but then hit a lazy fly ball that center fielder Jones had no trouble jogging over to catch. Nomar was the next batter. He was also able to work the count full. This time the payoff pitch just missed the bottom of the strike zone (at least according to home plate umpire Segal), and Nomar jogged over to first base with the walk. Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell. It rumbled through the valley and rattled in the dell. It pounded upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat. For Mighty Adrian Beltre was advancing to the bat.

There was no ease in Adrian's manner as he stepped into his place. He was certainly aware of the fact that he has had three hitless at-bats between his last hit. He was also more aware that the Rangers were down four, and haven't scored a run since he and Mike Napoli scored in the fifth inning of the game two nights ago. He was hoping to ignite the offense and maybe get the milestone that he had been chasing since June 24, 1998 out of the way. Home plate umpire Segal went to get more balls in his ball bag from the bat boy, but soon everybody settled into position. Meanwhile the folks in the stands were standing with their phones out to capture the moment, should it happen here. The first pitch from Miley missed inside for ball one. Adrian moved his hands, but held up. Miley's second pitch was low, and while he swung at the pitch with the count full in the first, Adrian made no motion to swing at this pitch. Catcher Castillo jogged out to hand-deliver the ball to Miley and also say a few words. The Rangers were all perched at the front of the dugout, although as the Fox Sports SW cameras showed only Adrian's good friend and chief tormentor Elvis Andrus stayed behind in the dugout. Miley's third pitch was also low and inside, and Adrian did a little hop.

By this time the crowd was getting restless. This was the second straight three-ball count that Miley had on Adrian, and this time the count was 3-0. It is customary for batters to take a 3-0 pitch, because if the pitcher has thrown three straight balls then the chances of them throwing a fourth ball is somewhat high. And nobody wants to make an out on a 3-0 count. Adrian has faced 330 3-0 counts in his career, and has walked 307 times on them. However, he has been aggressive before, rocketing 11 other hits on 3-0 counts, including two earlier this year, one against Chris Tillman two days earlier for hit #2997, and another against none other than Wade Miley on July 20 for hit #2984. Still, the crowd couldn't help but think that they were going to pitch around Adrian to deprive him of another opportunity to get his milestone hit. Boos started to ring around the ballpark, and one woman near me yelled, "Come on!"

Wade Miley got set for his fourth pitch. Adrian stood at home plate with his slightly closed stance that he had acquired from hitting coach Tim Wallach 13 years earlier, letting his bat sway casually in the air. Miley wound up and delivered a pitch that was 91.77 mph as it left his hand, according to pitch f/x data. It had some slight horizontal movement to the inside of the strike zone. Adrian unleashed a powerful swing. He pulled the ball on the ground, like he did with all four of the balls he put in play last night. However, the ball had a velocity off the bat of well over 98 mph, as it rocketed past third baseman Manny Machado. Third base umpire Bruce Dreckman signaled the ball stayed within the foul line, and everybody in the crowd knew at that moment that Adrian Beltre has his 3,000th hit.

The ball continued to bounce into foul territory and caromed off the wall past the security guard and the ballgirl. Left fielder Rickard was chasing the ball, but slipped as he change directions to adjust for the carum. He fielded the ball and threw it back into the infield towards second baseman Schoop, who caught it as Adrian jogged in with a double. Meanwhile, Nomar was running as soon as the ball was hit and made it easily to third. In the stands the crowd was screaming almost deliriously while I was trying to remove the "1" on my countdown sign. I held up the sign but blocked the person behind me who told me to put the sign down. So much for having a sign. Meanwhile, the Rangers unfurled a large cloth sign in center field saying "Congratulations Adrian Beltre 3,000 Career Hits" much like they did with his 2,000th career hit and his 400th home run. The Jumbotron counted up to 3000 and some fireworks went off as soon as the countdown went to 3000. On the field, Adrian took off his batting helmet and wiped the sweat off his brow while his teammates streamed onto the field. Second baseman Jonathan Schoop came by to give him the ball and a small hug. First base coach Hector Ortiz came up to Adrian and gave him the first big hug while a bat boy collected the ball, then together they walked with to first base where his teammates had congregated.

Up in the stands, we cheered. We cheered not only because the Rangers now had runners on second and third with only one out. We cheered not only because we got to see a nifty piece of baseball history. We cheered because it was Adrian Beltre that got the milestone. We cheered because of the way he had transformed himself from an underachieving talent to the undisputed team leader of the Texas Rangers. We cheered because of the joy he had brought to the game day in and day out of a baseball season that was otherwise an arduous grind. We cheered because of the plays he had made and the big hits he had gotten. We cheered because barring some unforeseen catastrophe, this hit will solidify his spot in Baseball's Hall of Fame, where five others were getting honored that very minute. 

Meanwhile, the security folks around home plate let the Beltre family onto the field. His kids came running out. Adrian was walking back with Ortiz and looked puzzled as they ran right past him. He received an acknowledgment from his former teammate Chris Davis. He then looked to see that his kids had run out into right center field. He stopped to get some hugs from his close friends Elvis Andrus and Carlos Gomez and Delino DeShields and Nomar Mazara, Martin Perez, with Elvis and DeShields sneaking in some head touches. As he was getting these hugs, public address announcer Morgan said "Please direct your attention to right center field, Adrian's family Cassandra, Adrian Jr., and Canila are now unveiling a sign on the outfield wall in right center field." They removed some tarp with the help of Rangers executives to reveal that the "Adrian Beltre 3000 Hits" logo had been printed on the wall. Another round of cheers rang through the ballpark as Adrian's children ran back towards the infield. Adrian hugged Mike Napoli and Rougned Odor, then Jonathan Lucroy and third base coach Tony Beasley when Odor got Adrian's attention that his kids were coming. Adrian got away from his teammates and welcomed his children with open arms. Adrian Jr. got to his dad first and gave him a big hug, followed by a hug for Cassandra, and a hug for Canila that lifted her off her feet. Adrian Jr. got a second hug before Adrian went back to hugging his manager and coaches and trainers and clubhouse men while the rest of his family came onto the field.

Sandra Beltre got to her husband and gave him a kiss followed by a big hug and a second kiss. He then went on to give a great big hug to his mother Andrea Perez who had given birth to him then helped raise him in Santo Domingo all those many years ago. After that he gave a hug to his father Bienvenido, the man they called "El Negrito," and the man who instilled in Adrian a love for the game and the drive and the desire to succeed in the game. He gave kisses on the cheek to his three children again before moving on to his wife. At this time chants of "Beltre! Beltre!" came ringing around the stand. He stood with his arms around his wife before raising them to acknowledge the cheers. As his teammates streamed back into the dugout and his family went back to the stands, Adrian was ready to get the game going again. He took off his shin guards and gave them to first base coach Ortiz, who gave him another hug.

As Adrian walked towards the second the Orioles went for their hugs. He gave one to his former teammate Davis again, then their star third baseman Machado. Other Orioles lined up behind second to get hugs of their own, starting with center fielder Jones. After Jones gave his hug, he reached out and touched Adrian in the head. Adrian responded by hitting Jones in the cup before moving on to finish out the line: former teammate Gentry, second baseman Schoop, shortstop Tejada, and left fielder Rickard. After that he gave one more acknowledgement to the crowd, and was ready for the game to move on.

If this was the end of the game then it would have been magical. Alas, unlike with Randy Johnson's 300th win, there was still a game to play. Adrian had always said that he doubted that the game would pause to celebrate the milestone, but by the time Mike Napoli took his place to take his hacks against Wade Miley, it had been four and half minutes since Adrian had gotten hit #3,000. Miley had thrown some warmup pitches during the celebration, and he was more than ready to face Napoli, inducing a pop-up out. Odor was next, and he grounded a single to the opposite field, and both Nomar and Adrian scored eliciting some more cheers. The Rangers were finally on the board! Gomez followed and got hit on the left hand to put runners on first and second, but Chirinos flied out to end the threat.

After the high of the 3,000 Hit moment, the rest of the game was somewhat of a downer for the Rangers. Martin started the fifth by getting Jones to ground to Adrian, but then Machado lofted a soft fly ball that fell for a single, and then Schoop muscled a high fastball to the left field seats to give the Orioles a 6-2 lead. Martin followed with a walk to Mancini, and allowed a single to Davis, and that was the end of his day. He was replaced by Jeremy Jeffress, the reliever that was traded alongside catcher Jonathan Lucroy at the trading deadline a year earlier. The first batter he faced was Welington Castillo, who powered a fly ball that hit the left field foul pole for a three-run home run. With that Martin Perez's ERA in the six starts I saw him soared to 7.86. The next batter Rickard hit a hard bouncer that Adrian flagged down with a nice backhanded play, but then the throw pulled first baseman Gallo well off the bag, and Adrian has two errors in two games. The next batter Tejada grounded into a double play to reduce the damage, but the Rangers were now down 9-2.

Adrian took his first plate appearance after the milestone hit in the fifth. Gallo singled to lead off the inning, and Elvis reached on a rare error by Manny Machado, but Miley got DeShields and Nomar out to put runners at the corner with two outs for Adrian. Adrian got the count to 2-2, and then lined a pitch to center field. Jones ran it down to deny Adrian of hit #3001. In the 6th, Gentry led off the inning with a single before getting erased in a fielder's choice hit by Jones. Schoop walked to put Jones in scoring position, then Schoop hit an RBI single to score Jones to make it 10-2 before a double play ended the inning. Side-armer and former Ranger Darren O'Day came out to pitch in the bottom of the 6th. He struck out the side, but did allow a towering home run to center field by Odor to make it 10-3. Jeffress retired Davis, Castillo, and Rickard one-two-three in the top of the 7th inning, but then Orioles reliever Brad Brach and did the same to the Rangers, retiring Gallo, DeShields, and Elvis in the bottom of the 7th.

Jason Grilli, who had pitched against the Rangers with the Blue Jays in the 2016 Division Series, but was so bad in 2017 that the Blue Jays unloaded him onto the Rangers, came out to pitch the top of the 8th. He went through and retired Tejada, Gentry, and Jones. For the bottom of the 8th, the Orioles turn to Dominican Miguel Castro, who was born on AJN's 10th birthday, five and a half months after Adrian Beltre was signed by the Dodgers. Castro allowed a leadoff home run to Nomar Mazara that went into deep right field. He came back and struck out Adrian, who still managed to race to first base as the ball got away from catcher Castillo. Napoli also struck out and was actually retired, but then Orioles manager Buck Showalter came out and replaced Castro with lefty Donnie Hart to face the left-handed Odor. It didn't work out, as Odor belted an 0-1 pitch to the right field seats and the Rangers are now down 10-6. Drew Robinson, who had replaced Gomez before the 8th inning drew a walk, but then Brett Nicholas, who had replaced Chirinos also before the 8th inning grounded into a double play to end the threat.

Grilli was still pitching in the top of the 9th inning when Machado led off and grounded a fair ball down the right field line. It got underneath the stools of the ballgirl and the security guard. Right fielder Nomar was seeing if first base umpire Mike Everitt would call it a ground rule double. When Everitt would not, Nomar picked up the ball and fired it to Adrian who caught the ball and put the tag on Machado, who was racing around second heading for third. Dreckman initially called Machado safe, but Rangers manager Jeff Banister called for the replay. The replay showed that despite Machado angling his body away from Adrian, Adrian still got the glove down to make the tag for out number one. It was scored a double and an out at third. The next batter Schoop lined an 0-2 pitch to Nomar without the drama, and Mancini flew out to end the inning.

The Rangers were down to their final three outs in the bottom of the 9th. Hart led off the inning, but walked the left-handed Gallo. With the top of the Rangers batting order right-handed, Showalter replaced Hart with right-handed ace reliever Mychal Givens. Banister countered by pinch hitting DeShields with the left-handed Shin-Soo Choo, who had the day off, but came on to try to help the Rangers come back. Alas, he was called out on strikes. Elvis was hit by the pitch to put runners on first and second, and put the tying run on deck. With the game now a save situation, Showalter turned once again to his closer, Zach Britton, for the four-run, less-than-three-out save. Nomar struck out, and Adrian came up to either help continue the comeback, or send the game to a humiliating defeat. Adrian took the count to 1-2, hitting two foul balls, including one that went just foul down the left field line. Finally, he hit a slow grounder that shortstop Tejada had no problem fielding and throwing to second baseman Schoop for the out. And that's the end of the game.

The final results of the game was certainly a disappointment for the Rangers and their fans. The Rangers were fighting for a Wild Card spot, being 18 games behind the Astros, but the loss sent them three games behind the Rays for that second Wild Card spot. Nevertheless, nobody that attended the game or even had a passing interest in baseball history could ever forget the beautiful five minutes that had happened in the fourth inning, when Adrian Beltre became the 31st player and first Dominican-born player to record 3,000 hits. It really was a special time.

Sources: Well, here it is, after 30,000 words in five days we finally get to the milestone 3,000th hit. Part of this is personal recollection, and the part for the play by play relied heavily on Baseball Reference's box score for the game as well as the Fox Sports SouthWest broadcast of the game. The video by YouTube user AK G was also used as a reference. He sat behind me but somehow got a much better view of the action.

Anyways, after 30,000 words in five days, I will go ahead and take a break. The sixth part will come six months from now, on July 30, 2018, and will explore how things have changed on the anniversary of this 3,000th hit. Who knows, it may be another personal holiday.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Adrian Beltre's 3,000th Hit Part IV: The Letdown

We've gone through almost 28,000 words in the past three days and has gone through three different types of history. When we left off, Adrian Beltre is at 2,998 hits, and I had just gotten the day off for Saturday and was preparing to go watch him make a chance at history on July 29, 2017. Can he do it? Find out next, on...

Or the Complete Story About How I Got to See Another One of the Greatest Milestones in the History of Baseball

Part I: The Introduction
Part II: The Player
Part III: The Set-Up
Part IV: The Letdown (you are here)
Part V: The Moment (January 30)
Part VI: The Aftermath (July 30)

I had a free day to head over to the ballpark in Arlington, but there were still some questions that I had to answer before I made the trip. Chief among those was when I should head up. The game starts at 7:05, but clearly I wanted to get there early enough to be at a good position when gates opened to get down close to the field. However, I had gotten a hotel at a Candlewood Suites not too far away because I figured I'd go to both games even if he got to the milestone that day, and I didn't want to have to drive back between games. Hotels usually have a time where we can start checking in, so I was thinking if I should park at the game and then drive to the hotel. However, I was bringing some extra clothes and a backpack with my laptop so I didn't want to leave those in the car all day. Ultimately I decided to leave at around 10:00. That would give me time to get some food in Fort Worth, and maybe when I get to the hotel I can check in, then I can just take a Lyft to the ballpark.

So that was what I did. I got up around 9:30 and left my apartment around 10:00. I got to Fort Worth around noon and stopped by the pho place I used to go to a lot in medical school. After I ate I drove to the hotel, hoping that they'd let me check in. Thankfully, even though it was only a little after 1:00, they let me check in. Things were looking up! I dropped my stuff off in my hotel room and went out to order a Lyft bringing only my Countdown sign, my phone, and a portable battery. My ride arrived and drove me to the ballpark. I was watching the intro video for Ivan Rodriguez for his Hall of Fame induction on the way.

It was around 2:00 by the time I arrived at the ballpark. I walked to the First Base Gate, which was closest to the dugout, and of course, there was nobody else that was there. After all, it was three hours before gates opened, and it was a hot and sunny day. I decided to go check out the team store, which was open. I went in and bought a magazine that comes with a scorecard. I decided to go back out to the first base gate and wait in the shade until somebody comes by. At around 3:00 a car stopped by and an older gentleman walked out carrying a stool and walked to the spot in front of the gate. I walked over and talked with him. He says that he was here primarily for the Rougned Odor High Five bobblehead that they were giving out. He says that he was going to get the bobblehead and leave. He didn't really care to stay for the game or the milestone. We waited a little bit longer, and then there was a lady wearing an Odor jersey that was standing next to a post where there was some shade. I walked over and asked what she was there for. She says she was also there for the bobblehead.

As time went down there eventually got to be more people. Most of them all said they were there for the bobblehead. People were certainly aware of the milestone, but the giveaway was what was driving them to go to the ballpark. Nevertheless, there was an electricity in the crowd as people felt pretty sure that he was going to get it that night. Eventually the line stretched well around the corner. It was brutally sunny and I was using my sign as a makeshift umbrella. Soon the security folks came out and brought out the metal detectors and set up the tables. I had to go to a bag line because the bag I had from the team store consisted of a bag, but I was near the front of the line. And then we waited until the security people got the okay to let us all in. It was a little after 5:00 when they gave the okay, and we all rushed in.

Once we were in, I stopped to get my ticket scanned, and picked up the bobblehead. After that I hurried down to the Rangers dugout, the place where Adrian was signing during that Washington game. Unfortunately, by then the Rangers had finished with their batting practice and were off the field, and the Orioles were out. I was somewhat annoyed that we never get to see the home team practice by the time we got in. I stood behind the dugout for an hour, but nothing was happening. No players were coming out. Finally at 6:00 I decided to head to my seat.

I was sitting in row 3 of Section 328 along the first base side. It was just one row behind where I sat when I watched the 2010 World Series. Even though it was in the upper deck, it was still a good view of the field. I held up my sign, hoping that maybe the cameras can catch it, although I wasn't terribly optimistic because the cameras rarely go to the upper deck. Even though I normally don't like getting ballpark food because it's generally so expensive, I couldn't help but get a drink for the souvenir cup because I like collecting the souvenir cups. Unfortunately, the souvenir cups for the Rangers were a cheap, flimsy plastic cup with a boring design unlike the solid cups with decorative designs that were being sold at the other stadiums. I also got a lemon Sno-blast because I like getting them at ballparks.

It was about 7:07 when Rangers rookie Austin Bibens-Dirkx threw the first pitch to Orioles center fielder Adam Jones. Bibens-Dirkx was one of the more inspirational stories of the 2017 Rangers. He was initially drafted in the 16th round in the 2006 amateur draft, a position where it was possible to make the Majors, but the odds were against you. He signed immediately and managed to get as high as AAA in his first professional season, but struggled with inconsistency in the next several seasons. He passed through the Mariners, Cubs, Nationals, Cubs, and Blue Jays before signing with the Rangers. He pitched in Venezuelan and Dominican Winter Leagues as well as in independent leagues to keep his dream alive. Finally, he received his call-up to the Majors, and made his debut in May at the age of 32. He was initially used as a seasoned arm in the bullpen, but injuries to some starters forced him into the rotation, where he was able to turn in a few good performances: a seven inning, one-run against the Nationals on June 10 (when I was at my college reunion), and another one against the Yankees on June 24. His other starts weren't as good, so he pitched intermittently until an injury to starter Tyson Ross led him to make the start in this potentially historic game.

Bibens-Dirkx wanted to pitch well to help ensure that he can stay in the big leagues. Meanwhile, the crowd wanted him to get the Orioles out quickly to ensure that Adrian Beltre can come to the plate sooner. However, Adam Jones belted a long fly ball to deep center field. It bounced on the warning track and flew over the fence for a ground-rule double. The next two batters grounded out to Adrian before a walk and a strikeout got the Rangers out of the inning.

Adrian has been the number four hitter, generally known as the cleanup hitter, since he arrived to the Rangers in 2011. The cleanup hitter spot is usually reserved for the power bat in the lineup, because if the first three batters get on base, the cleanup hitter can "clean up" the bases by driving them all in. Adrian batting fourth means that if somebody gets on base in the first, then there's a good chance that Adrian can come to the plate. However, if anybody is to get on base then they'd have to do it against the Orioles starter, Kevin Gausman. Gausman was the Orioles' #1 draft pick (and fourth overall) in the 2012 draft. He was their top pitching prospect, and advanced through the minors so quickly that he was in the majors in 2013, less than a year after he was drafted. Gausman has dealt with inconsistencies and injuries, but he had a very good season in 2016 when he put up a 3.61 ERA in 179 and 2/3 innings, although he went 9-12. He had struggled in 2017 with a 5.79 ERA going into the game, but he did throw a fine game against the Rangers ten days earlier, allowing only one run in six innings and striking out eight. Adrian got only one hit that day, a double for hit #2983.

Leadoff man and designated hitter Shin-Soo Choo drew a leadoff walk against Gausman, which elicited applause from the crowd, because it greatly increased the chance that Adrian would come up in the first. They were just hoping that the next batter, shortstop and chief Adrian tormentor Elvis Andrus wouldn't hit into a double play. The fans held their breath as Elvis hit a slow roller up the middle that could have been a double play, but by the time Orioles shortstop Ruben Tejada got to the ball he couldn't flip it to second baseman Jonathan Schoop in time to make the play. It was a base hit, and all but guarantees Adrian will come up in the first. The only thing that would keep it from happening was if the next batter, right fielder Nomar Mazara, hits into a triple play. Nomar hit it on the ground towards first, but the Orioles could only turn a double play.

While the crowd was disappointed in the double play, they still stood and cheered, for Adrian Beltre was coming to the plate. Fans were pulling out their cameras and phones to record a potential 2,999th hit, hoping that if he can get it this at bat, then he'd have more chances to get it this game. Adrian has always been an aggressive hitter and often swings at the first pitch, thinking that the pitcher is often trying to throw a strike to get ahead. He did the same on Gausman's first pitch, but could only foul tip it into the glove of catcher Caleb Joseph. He hit the second pitch on the ground towards left field. Fans were hoping that the ball could get past shortstop Tejada, but Tejada ran over and got to the ball, then planted his feet and made a strong throw to the first baseman, former Rangers teammate Chris Davis. Fans were hoping that Adrian can beat the throw, but the throw beat him by a step for the third out. The fans would have to wait a little longer for hit 2,999.

Two of the first three hitters in the top of the second hit the ball out of the ballpark to give the Orioles a 2-0 lead. Shortstop Tejada, who made the play to rob Adrian on the hit, reached on an error by Rangers first baseman Mike Napoli where Rangers manager Jeff Banister challenged on a tag play, but he is erased in a double play to send play to the bottom of the second. Rangers fans were hoping that the Rangers can get the two runs back, but while center fielder Carlos Gomez singled and stole second, he is stranded. The Orioles add two more runs in the third when Bibens-Dirkx loaded the bases on a Schoop double and two walks, then followed that with an RBI fielder's choice/failed double play and an RBI single.

The Rangers were down 4-0 when Joey Gallo came to the plate in the bottom of the third. He was the Rangers' top prospect for several years thanks to his prodigious power, but as a third baseman his progress was blocked by Adrian Beltre. He finally got some playing time with Adrian's calf problems, and was among the league leaders in home run with 25. It looked like he was about to get his 26th when he slammed a high fly ball to deepest center field. Center fielder Jones kept his eyes on the ball, and when he got to the wall he leaped and snagged the ball nonchalantly before it went over the fence. Replays showed that it would have gone over the fence had Jones not caught it. It was a crushing blow for the Rangers as it kept them from getting a run back, and also made it more difficult for Adrian to come up that inning. And while Choo singled to give the crowd some hope, Elvis and Nomar both struck out swinging to ensure Adrian would have to wait until the fourth to get 2,999.

Bibens-Dirkx made quick work of the Orioles in the fourth. Tejada grounded out, then Jones grounded to Adrian. Orioles third baseman Manny Machado singled, but then Schoop flied out.

Then the crowd began to buzz with anticipation, for Adrian Beltre was due to lead off the fourth. Once Gausman finished his warm-up tosses the crowd began to stand up and cheer, eager for the chance to see history again. As the chants of "Let's go, Beltre!" went ringing around the stadium, Gausman's first two pitches missed outside. The crowd was starting to get somewhat antsy. It would be so upsetting for Adrian to walk and ruin a chance to get closer to 3,000. Gausman's third pitch caught a little bit more of the plate. Adrian swung and grounded it to the left side. However, the key difference was that Tejada couldn't get to it in time. Adrian Beltre has hit number 2,999.

The crowd cheered and celebrated and celebrated and cheered as Adrian took his time at first base. Not only does Adrian have 2,999, but he got it early enough in the game that he likely has two more chances to get the milestone hit. And, with the Rangers down by four it's always great to have the leadoff man on. The next hitter was first baseman Napoli, who is on his third stint with the Rangers. He became somewhat of a folk hero in his first stint and probably would have gotten MVP had the Rangers not fucked it up like Bert Blyleven. He collapsed like Josh Hamilton late in the 2012 season, then went to the Red Sox and won a World Series title. His second stint came in the 2015 season when he was brought back to help the Rangers come back to win the division, but Napoli only went 1 for 7. He then went to the Indians and almost won another World Series title. Finally he came back to try to help the Rangers win a third straight division title. However, up to that point he was struggling to keep his batting average above .200, and in this particular at-bat he fouled off five of Gausman's pitches after reaching a two-strike count, but on the 10th pitch he grounded a ball to Machado, who almost leisurely started an around-the-horn double play to erase the runner Adrian Beltre. The crowd  groaned in frustration at another scoring opportunity wasted. The following batter second baseman Rougned Odor singled, but Gomez struck out to end the inning.

Bibens-Dirkx hit Chris Davis with a pitch that just grazed Davis's shoulder to lead off the fifth. Davis got all the way to third on a throwing error by Odor who was trying to double him off on a pop fly by Machado. However, Bibens-Dirkx got out of the inning with no damage. Meanwhile Gausman continued to tear through the Rangers lineup. He retired the first two batters easily before allowing an hard hit single to Choo that Davis couldn't glove. The crowd came to life, thinking this could be the start of a rally that can score some runs and get Adrian up to bat once again. Alas, Gausman put an end to that dream by retiring Elvis.

The crowd was getting somewhat restless as Tony Barnette came out to pitch in the sixth inning. Barnette is another pitcher with a circuitous route to the majors. He was originally drafted in the 10th round of the 2006 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. He progressed stepwise through the Diamondbacks' minor league system, but then struggled with their AAA Reno Aces in 2009. The Diamondbacks left him unprotected four the Rule 5 draft, but the only team that came calling was the Tokyo Yakult Swallows of Nippon Professional Baseball, who were interested in the young pitcher. Barnette struggled in his first season as a starter in Japan, but they transitioned him to relief and his career took off. He became the Swallow's closer and in 2015 he saved 41 games for them while helping them get to the Japan Series. His successes in Japan caught the eyes of Major League teams, and Barnette decided to go through the posting system where Major League teams submit bids to the NPB teams for the rights to negotiate with the player. The Rangers won the rights to Barnette, and they signed him to a two-year contract. Barnette was terrific while leading the Rangers to the AL West title in 2016. He wasn't quiet as sharp in 2017, as his ERA got as high as 7.23 at one point. He had gotten it down to 5.87 by the time he warmed up on July 29. The crowd wasn't sure which version of Barnette to expect, but he showed it was Barnette at his best by striking out the side.

There was a palpable buzz as the Rangers came to bat in the bottom of the sixth. Part of it was from a sense that Gausman isn't going to shut the Rangers down forever. Moreover, Adrian was due to hit second, and there was a strong feeling that some history can be made. There was a slight pause in the cheering once Nomar was called out on strikes, but the cheering started back up again as Adrian came to the plate. Once again the crowd cheered and got their phones and cameras ready to record history. His wife Sandra, his parents Negrito and Andrea, and his three children Cassandra, Adrian Jr., and Canila were positioned behind home plate, ready to run out of the field if history can be made. Gausman threw a sinker, and Adrian swung aggressively, hitting a slow roller to the left side. Shortstop Tejada fielded it and threw it to first to get Adrian easily. So much for history. Napoli then struck out to end the sixth. During the inning break, the paid attendance was announced at 44,658. It was the third largest crowd at home to that point in the season, behind only Opening Day and the first home game against the Red Sox. Surely not all of them came for the Odor bobblehead. That was a good sign of just how big this moment is going to be for Rangers fans.

As much acclaim Adrian has gotten for his hitting, his fielding is still what sets him apart from other third basemen. And Adrian went into the game working on a 62-game error-less streak, with his last error coming in the ninth inning against the Indians on August 27, 2016. He had handled his first three chances of the game without any difficulties. Machado led off the seventh with a sharply-hit bouncer towards third. Adrian backhanded the ball without much difficulty deep in the third base hole, then threw towards first baseman Napoli. The ball started sinking and bounced before getting to Napoli, who couldn't field it cleanly. The ball bounced away towards the dugout, and Machado hurried to second base for a two-base error. It was clearly an error on Adrian, and ended his streak of error-less games at 62. The crowd was stunned, and wondered how much the failure to secure the milestone hit affected his fielding. (Probably not a lot once you come down to it.)

With a runner at second, Barnette pitched to the right-handed Schoop and got him to strike out for the first out. The next batter was the left-handed Davis. Barnette is right-handed, and it is a generally accepted baseball fact that when the pitcher and hitter play from the same side (as in a right handed pitcher facing a right handed hitter), then the advantage goes to the pitcher, but when they play from opposite sides the advantage goes to the hitter. The Rangers were already down four, and with Davis's power and platoon advantage he could easily make it a five or six-run deficit, so Banister opted to walk Davis to face the next two hitters, both of whom were right-handed. A new rule instituted prior to the season allowed for an intentional walk without any pitches, so with a signal from Banister, Davis was allowed to jog to first base. And Barnette struck out the next two batters to give him a remarkable six in two innings of work.

After the seventh inning stretch, the Rangers had another trip to the plate. Adrian was guaranteed another plate appearance provided he doesn't get removed for a pinch-hitter or for defensive purposes, neither of which were likely. The crowd was hoping for some baserunners to give the Rangers more chances at runs and Adrian more chances to get his 3,000th hit. However, Gausman was on the top of his game, and retired Odor, Gomez, and catcher Jonathan Lucroy to record his second straight one-two-three inning. Barnette came out for his third inning of work in the top of the eighth. He allowed a walk to Tejada, but recorded three groundouts to limit the damage.

By the bottom of the 8th, the crowd was hoping that the Rangers could get SOMETHING done against Gausman. A four-run deficit is not insurmountable, but they were running out of opportunities. Gausman squashed any hopes of that happening by retiring Gallo, Choo, and Elvis. With Barnette having gone three innings, Banister decided to make a change and sent Dominican rookie Jose Leclerc to pitch the ninth. Machado led off with a foul pop-up to the left field side. Adrian, probably still fuming from the error in the seventh, ran back to foul territory and made a nice grab of the pop-up to retire his counterpart. Schoop followed with a walk, but Banister decided to let Leclerc throw to Davis, and Davis struck out. Leclerc threw a wild pitch while facing designated hitter Mark Trumbo, but Trumbo lined to Elvis to end the inning and send the game to the bottom of the ninth.

The crowd was bubbling with anticipation as the game went to the bottom of the 9th. This was the last chance for the Rangers to come back, and with him due up second in the inning this would be the last chance for Adrian to get hit 3,000. With his pitch count just north of 100 pitches, Gausman was allowed to go out to try to record the last three outs to record the second complete game in his career, and potentially his first complete game shutout. The crowd was just waiting for Gausman to crack. And it seemed to happen when Gausman walked Nomar to lead off the ninth.

The crowd immediately started standing up and cheering. The Rangers finally had a runner on base, and more importantly Adrian was coming to the plate. Once again, his family was positioned where they can run out on the field, while most everybody else was pulling out their cameras to remember the moment. Adrian swung at Gausman's first pitch, but fouled it off of his own left ankle. After walking off the initial sting, Adrian settled back into the batter's box. Gausman's second pitch missed inside. Gausman threw a fastball for his third pitch, and Adrian pulled it to the left side. Third baseman Machado fielded it on a short hop, then threw it to second baseman Schoop to get Nomar, and Schoop threw it to Davis to complete the double play. Not only did Adrian fail to secure the milestone hit, but a prime scoring opportunity was erased.

Dejected, many of the fans started streaming out of the stadium. The fans that stayed saw Napoli work Gausman for a two-out walk. Then Odor hit a pop fly that eluded all the fielders. With runners on first and second with two outs, Orioles manager Buck Showalter chose to remove Gausman for their All-Star closer Zach Britton. Britton was fantastic in 2016, allowing 47 saves without a blown save. He missed two months in 2017 due to a left forearm strain and had some rough outings in non-save-situations. Still, he had a streak of 55 consecutive saves that was second all-time to the Dodgers' Eric Gagne, who was a minor league teammate with Adrian Beltre. With the tying run on-deck, this qualifies as a save situation and gave Britton a chance to make it 56 straight. And it took Britton only three pitches to induce a groundout on Gomez to seal the deal. The Rangers had lost once again, and Adrian's date with destiny would have to wait another day.

My mood matched the rest of the crowd as I left the stadium and head towards the Uber pickup site. Before heading there I stopped by the team store looking for something that could be used as a tape, since when I pulled off the "2" with Adrian's 2,999th hit the "1" came off with it. I ended up buying some stick-on eye-black that could serve the trip. I had never used the Uber pick-up service, but I figured I should just call for a ride and wait the ride to come. I ordered a ride and waited around but the ride never seemed to arrive. I even tried to call, but the driver's phone wasn't on and I only got to Uber's answering service. After waiting around for a long time I saw that the ride was canceled. At this point it was almost 11:00 at night, and I still had to update my spreadsheets. I decided Uber can go fuck itself and ordered a ride from Lyft, who got me back to my hotel with no problems.

After I got back I ordered a Domino's Philly cheesesteak pizza because I hadn't eaten anything but the lemon Sno-blast since the pho almost 12 hours ago. I also took the stick-on eye-black and used them to secure the "1" on my countdown sign. After that I showered and put on a dress because I love wearing dresses. I spent the next hour or so updating my spreadsheets, updating the wins and strikeout totals of the 100-win pitchers and the pitchers that had decisions against 300-win pitchers, and also recorded the play by play on the spreadsheet I use to keep track of plays in the games I've gone to in person. When that was done I was ready to get some sleep. After all, tomorrow is another game, and surely Adrian was going to get his 3,000th hit. It took me a while to get settled down, but finally I drifted off to sleep.

Sources: Well, I guess this turned out to be a play by play for the July 29, 2017 game, which isn't surprising to me. The Baseball Reference box score for the game was a very useful resource, of course it also helps to have the MASN broadcast of the game on YouTube to refer to. (I would have used the Fox Sports SouthWest feed, but it's only available on MLB.TV, and you can't skip around as easily.) After that I used some of Dallas SportsDay account on the minor league journeys of Austin Bibens-Dirkx and the Vice Sports account of Tony Barnette's Japanese journey. And of course, most of the rest were from personal experiences.

But we are coming to the climax of our series, as the next part will cover the big game, the game that includes the 3,000th Hit.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Adrian Beltre's 3,000th Hit Part III: The Set-Up

Welcome to Part III of my incredibly insane six-part series on a baseball milestone y'all probably don't care about. I've already submitted you to 20,000 words worth of stuff over the past two days, and we still have four more parts to go. After two days of mostly haphazardly-researched material, I am going to focus this time on my personal experiences. This time it's going to be about my personal history with the 3,000 hit club, my own personal memories on Adrian Beltre as well as his chase for 3,000 hits, up through July 28, 2017. Why specifically that date? Well you'll find out soon.

Or the Complete Story About How I Got to See Another One of the Greatest Milestones in the History of Baseball

Part I: The Introduction
Part II: The Player
Part III: The Set-Up (you are here)
Part IV: The Letdown (January 29)
Part V: The Moment (January 30)
Part VI: The Aftermath (July 30)

I was first introduced to baseball on July 5, 1993. I was living in the Kansas City area at the time, and my dad took me to a Kansas City Royals game against the Baltimore Orioles. I suppose I was aware that there was a sport called baseball before that, but that first game was where I got a true taste of the game. I watched the Royals beat the Orioles 7-1. I got to see future Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., but I missed seeing George Brett, who had the day off. Early on, I didn't go to many games because my parents weren't really into baseball, and the only reason we went to the one we did was because one of my dad's friends had extra tickets. So my primary focus came to be on the history of the game, especially after my parents got the companion book for Ken Burns's Baseball documentary for Christmas 1994. I first started following the game in 1995, when I jumped on the Cleveland Indians bandwagon. They reached the World Series but then lost to the Atlanta Braves. As the 1996 season began, I had my mom buy me a lot of the preview magazines including Athlon Sports, ESPN SportZone, and some books about baseball history. It was with these early resources that I became aware of the three big milestones: 300 wins, 500 home runs, and 3,000 hits.

Like many other fans at the time, I was enthralled with the longball, and so the 500 home run club became my favorite in those early days. I memorized the list of 500 home run players, and as Eddie Murray made his chase on the 500 home run milestone, I started fantasizing that he'd do it against Kansas City and I'd be there for the game. (He ended up getting traded to the Orioles and got his milestone home run in Baltimore.) I wasn't really concerned with 300 wins because I wasn't really focused on pitchers or pitching win, and I didn't really care to learn the 3,000 hit club because it was so big compared to the others. So I didn't really care that Paul Molitor was closing in on 3,000 hits and actually reached the milestone in Kansas City on September 16, 1996. I had my first lesson about heartbreak when the Cleveland Indians lost to the Orioles in the Division Series in 1996, and then to the Florida Marlins in the World Series a year later. I got caught up in the magical home run race in 1998, and closely followed Mark McGwire as he went for 500 home runs a year later. I saved the newspaper about McGwire's 500th home run when he reached it on August 5, 1999. I didn't save the newspaper the next day or the day after that when Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs got to 3,000 hits respectively.

It was during this time that Adrian Beltre went through the minors and made his Major League debut. I didn't know who Adrian Beltre was at the time. I had gotten the Baseball America 1997 Almanac for my birthday in 1997, and while I read through it countless times I wasn't aware that it had mentioned Adrian Beltre until 20 years later. I wasn't even in the country when he made his Major League debut on June 24, 1998. Instead, I was spending a summer vacation with my family in Taiwan, watching Chinese dubs of American cartoons like Quack Pack and Sonic the Hedgehog. When I went back to the US Adrian wasn't on my radar, mostly because I was following primarily American League teams while he played for the Dodgers. I suppose I heard his name a couple of times during his Dodgers years, but it didn't leave much of an impression on me.

In 1999, my family moved from Kansas to Northern Virginia, and the closest Major League team to me went from the Royals to the Orioles. The Orioles had Ripken, who was by then already a baseball legend and was closing in on 3,000 hits. Because he was so popular it was hard not to ignore the 3,000 countdown that was going on that year, but a back injury knocked him out for the rest of the season nine hits away. When the season started back up he got the last nine hits, but I wasn't really aware of it when it happened. When I went to my first Orioles game with a friend on August 12, 2001 I was aware that he was at 3,152 hits, only two hits away from tying George Brett's hit total. This was mostly because I had become a big fan of Brett. Ripken got only one hit in the game and ended the game one hit off from tying Brett. Later that year I heard that Rickey Henderson got his 3,000th hit, but I certainly wasn't counting down.

In 2003 and 2004, my interest started to shift towards the 300 win club, largely because Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux reached the milestones that many doubted would ever be reached again. Adrian had his huge year in the latter season, and his exploits on the field certainly crossed my path, but I wasn't springing to follow the Dodgers day by day because of it. At the end of the season I was aware of his free agency, but when I saw that he signed with the Seattle Mariners for an obscene amount of money, I thought that was nice and moved on with my life.

2005 was a big year for me in my life as a baseball fan. Part of it was because the Montreal Expos had moved to Washington DC and became the Washington Nationals. There was finally a team that I can get to on my own (provided somebody got me a ride to and from the Washington Metro.) It was also the year where I became a fanatic over pitchers and the 300-win milestone. I wrote a massive post about the 300-win club, and made Excel spreadsheets tracking the wins for pitchers. It was the year that Roger Clemens had his final great year, keeping his ERA below 2.00 almost all season while leading the Astros from the ashes of a 15-30 record to a World Series appearance. And of course it was the year that Major League Baseball finally cracked down on steroids and other performance enhancing drugs (PED). I remember watching the Congressional testimonies after it happened, and was heartbroken by the sad performance by Mark McGwire, who was a hero just seven years earlier.

Even though the Nationals had arrived in DC, the DC area still had a large Orioles following. Rafael Palmeiro was playing for the Orioles then, and like with Ripken six years earlier, the Washington newspapers were having a 3,000 countdown for him. I wasn't paying too close of attention to it, but I was happy for him when he finally reached the milestone. And like many others I was shocked when I found out about his positive steroid test. I knew it was strange that he had more homers than Mickey Mantle, and to have gotten caught when he was due to reach a crowning achievement was just too crazy.

I had become a fan of Craig Biggio back in the late 1990s when I inexplicably decided to be a fan of the Houston Astros. I became more of a fan when Roger Clemens decided to sign with Houston in 2004. I started to follow the Houston Astros a lot and were cheering for them as they were making their post-season runs in 2004 and 2005. I knew quite well that Biggio was going for his 3,000th career hit in 2007. I didn't keep tabs on his progress every single day, but I did check MLB.com frequently, and knew when he got to the milestone. I was doing a summer course about Intro to News Writing, and we had to write a news article about a current event. I chose to wrote about Biggio's 3,000th hit and Frank Thomas's 500th home run, which happened on the same day.

I don't think you need a reminder about what happened on June 4, 2009. I think I have written plenty about the subject. At the time Adrian Beltre was in his final year with the Mariners. His power outage since going to Seattle was common knowledge. I didn't really think about him beyond that. I had no idea that he had 1,634 hits at the time, and if I did I wouldn't have cared.

2009 was also significant in that I moved to Fort Worth, Texas to begin my medical school training. I was more than aware of the fact that the school was located fairly close to the Ballpark in Arlington. In fact, after my parents had gone back to Texas after helping me move in, one of the first things I did was drive out to where the Ballpark was. I attended my first game in Texas on July 20, 2009 against the Red Sox, and 11 days later I went to another game on July 31. I had made a sign saying that it was the 19th anniversary of Nolan Ryan's 300th win. They were playing the Mariners at the time, but Adrian Beltre didn't play because he was out with shoulder surgery. I didn't think I was missing anything.

2010 was a big year for me because it was when the Rangers were actually getting good. I found time to go to a half dozen games that spring, and was pleased by how well they were doing. The 2010 Rangers gave me a chance to attend my first post-season game, Game 3 of the Division Series against the Rays, which was also the first playoff game in Texas since 1999. (They lost.) Later, they beat the New York Yankees to win the pennant, and I was more than willing to splurge to get tickets to that. (They also lost.) 2010 was also a big year for Adrian Beltre. He had signed his one-year contract with Boston. I'll probably get a lot of hate for this, but I grew up being somewhat of a Yankees fan since Mickey Mantle was my first favorite player. (Hey, he has the same name as Mickey Mouse.) As a result I will admit I do tend to root against the Red Sox. I was more than aware that Adrian had signed his contract, and was more than aware that he was having a solid year. I will confess that I was rooting against the Red Sox in hopes that the Rays and Yankees would make it instead. When that happened, I didn't concern myself about Red Sox or Adrian Beltre anymore.

Like many other Rangers fans, I was hoping that the Rangers would re-sign Cliff Lee to become their pitching ace. But of course once Lee signed with Philadelphia, Texas went for their plan B, Adrian Beltre. I wasn't quite sure what to think about that. I knew he had a strong year in 2010, and I knew he was pretty good defensively. However, I also knew about his reputation as somebody who only played well in years before free agency and dogged it otherwise. I hadn't paid enough attention to him the rest of the time to know anything else about him. I figured I'd see how he'd do once the season starts.

I didn't have much of an opportunity to go to Rangers games in early 2011, with med school classes and then board examinations. Still, I was able to catch some games on TV. And early on I was able to see that his defensive reputation was well earned. On April 19, 2011 the Rangers were playing the Angels. Vernon Wells Baltimore-chopped a bouncing ball towards the third base side. It got past the pitcher and looked like it was going to be an infield hit. Yet here comes Adrian charging the ball. He caught the ball, then threw the ball to first while falling to get the runner. I was able to make it to some games in June after taking the boards. I went to my first game on June 8 against the Tigers, who were giving the Rangers a hard time that year. Adrian had himself a big game, with two hits and a home run. This was after the Rangers put the game out of reach, and my memories about the hits were fuzzy at best, but my fears about Adrian under-producing had been assuaged. Derek Jeter got his 3,000th hit a month and a day later. I was not following his progress, but I was happy for him when the news popped up on MLB.com, and eventually brought the game on the iTunes Store.

By the time the playoffs started I had moved to Longview in East Texas for clinical rotations. I still followed the playoffs from afar, and was overjoyed when the Rangers came back from the embarrassing shutout against Matt Moore, and was happy that Adrian Beltre had hit three home runs. Part of me was disappointed it wasn't one of the more established stars with the Rangers, but I was happy they were moving on. I got tickets to go to Game 1 of the ALCS against the Tigers, which happened the day after I traveled up to Dallas to watch Jackie Chan's 1911. Adrian only had a harmless single that I don't remember, but the Rangers took a 3-2 lead that they were able to hang onto after a lengthy rain delay. I was watching in an Outback Steakhouse when the Rangers beat the Tigers in Game 6 and was happy for the team. It also meant I was getting to watch my second World Series Game, this time in Game 3. That was the day Adrian broke out with four hits, but I honestly don't remember any of them, because that was the day of Albert Pujols's three home runs, and the Cardinals winning big 16-7. I couldn't bear to watch Game 6 on TV, but when Adrian homered in the seventh inning to give the Rangers a lead, I decided I had to go check it out. I went to the lounge in the hospital I was at where they had the game on. There I got to see the Rangers blow the lead in both the 9th and 10th inning. Normally I like to stay until the bitter end if I go to the game, but when I'm watching on TV I can leave it. When Ron Washington pinch-hit for Scott Feldman in the top of the 11th, I knew the Rangers didn't have any hope of winning the game. I was at a McDonald's drive-thru when Freese hit his home run. The 2011 season ended on a sour note for the Rangers just short of a title, but it was still a solid first season for Adrian Beltre. I'll be lying if I said he was immediately my favorite player, but he was a player I liked.

The 2012 season was a bit of an odd year. I was traveling the country for rotations and interviews, and was watching nine games in nine different stadiums. None of them were the Rangers. I still followed the Rangers from afar, especially as Josh Hamilton went off to his hot start, and watched  their ebb and flow. By the time I finally went out to a Rangers game, they were in the midst of their collapse. The Rangers were playing the Athletics, and fell into the hole early. Adrian was having a great year, but he didn't do well that game with only one harmless single. I spent more of the time being critical of the Rangers' young pitcher Martin Perez. When the Rangers' collapse was complete, I had already bought tickets for the Wild Card Game. I had a residency interview in Shreveport that day, but I left right after the interview and drove three and a half hours and got to the game just as it was starting. I was still in my interview suit. I felt the sinking sense of deflation with every missed opportunity. Most of the ire was directed against Hamilton and Mike Napoli, two 2011 heroes. I didn't take notice of Adrian's failings, since he did well enough in the regular season. I'll admit when the MVP votes were announced I was a little surprised when I saw that Adrian finished second.

I was able to go to a few more Rangers games in 2013. I skipped the last day of my very first My Little Pony convention in Lewisburg north of Dallas and drove down to Houston to attend the official Opening Day game and the Astros' very first game in the American League. They celebrated the occasion by dominating the Rangers 8-2, with Adrian going hitless along with several other of his teammates. I decided to attend the Rangers' Home Opener that year to watch them play the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The game was notable mostly because it was Josh Hamilton's first game back in Texas after signing with Los Angeles in the off-season. He had already drawn some boos in the Wild Card Game the year before, and then in the off-season made some inciting comments saying that Texas was more of a football city. When he took his first at-bat of the game, I recorded a video of the boos raining down on him throughout the stadium. These boos turned to cheers when Adrian hit a game-tying home run to erase a 2-1 lead in the 7th, and then when Ian Kinsler singled in the go-ahead run in the 8th.

I was following the team from afar when they went through their ups and downs throughout the season. I celebrated with the team when they had their three straight walk-off home runs. Then I cringed when they blew their lead in September to fall out of the race. I was doing my internal medicine residency in Longview at the time. When they clinched the tie-break, I was determined to go, even if I was working until 5 every single day. I got my ticket and drove two and a half hours. I was aware that Adrian Beltre was going for his 200th hit. He got hit number 199 when I was still on my way there, and the Rangers were already down 3-0 by the time I arrived. I didn't have much optimism that the Rangers could pull it off, so I spent the rest of the game seeing if Adrian could get that 200th straight hit. He couldn't, and the Rangers lost once again.

In 2014, I had fully immersed myself into the My Little Pony fandom. I paid just enough attention to baseball to update my pitching win spreadsheets. I watched only two games that year, and neither of them featured the Rangers, which was okay because that was the year they collapsed and ended up in last place.

Up until that point Adrian Beltre was to me just another player in the team that I liked. I really can't name a favorite player on the Rangers from 2009-14 because I liked the team as a cohesive whole rather than as individual players. It also didn't help that much of my focus was on pitchers, and the Rangers never had the marquee pitcher that grabs your attention. (I suppose Darvish was one, but I never did get over my skepticism about him.) It wasn't until 2015 that I became more aware that Adrian Beltre was somebody special. Part of it was that he was moving up in the Baseball Reference WAR (bWAR) leaderboard. Part of it was that he was moving up the hits leaderboard. Part of it was that I was finally able to appreciate that he was a leader and a motivator on the team.

This certainly wasn't apparent in my first Rangers game since the tie-break game of 2013. I decided to go to the Rangers-Red Sox game on May 31, 2015 as a joke. My friend Adam said he was going to the Rangers game that day with another friend Amy. I had the day off so I decided to go to the game as well and surprise them. Another one of our friends Brandi wanted to come as well, so I got us both tickets in the section next to Adam and Amy, but I told Brandi to keep it a secret. Even though I had worked a night shift the night before, I was still excited to go out to the game. The look on Adam's face when he walked by and did a double take when he saw us was priceless. The game itself was kind of blah until the very end. I did notice that Adrian was playing well, driving in a run and scoring a run on a groundout and a single. He singled again in the fifth, and that was the day he tore his thumb ligament. I was a bit disappointed to see him leave the game, but prodigal son Josh Hamilton made it all worth it with his walk-off double.

By the time Adrian came back in late June, A-Rod had already gotten his 3,000th career hit with a home run. (Once again, I wasn't aware of it until after it happened.) By that time I had at the very least memorized the 3,000 hit players and was starting to learn some of the players with 2,500 hits. I knew that Adrian was moving up the list, so I started to periodically check where he was relative to other players with 2,500 hits. I attended another game with Adam and Brandi on August 29, 2015 (this time Adam knew about it). Adrian excited the crowd with a loud flyout in the first, then made sure to hit it out in the third. I looked at where he was and saw that he had tied Lou Gehrig with his 2,721st hit with that home run. He passed Gehrig with a single in the seventh, but sadly I don't remember the play itself.

Under Adrian's leadership and improved play from the rest of the team, the Rangers came back and won the division. (I had watched two other regular season games, but Adrian went hitless in both of them.) With the Rangers going back to the playoffs, I found a great deal for a pair of seats in the Division Series. I invited Adam to go, and we went. Unfortunately, that was the series in which Adrian injured his back in the first game, and he missed Games 2 and 3. Game 3 was the one we attended, and with Adrian out of the lineup and Martin Perez on the mound, the Rangers got dominated by the Blue Jays. Only a few days later the Rangers' season came to a close.

The countdown was officially on in the 2016 season. It was also helpful that it was around then that the Rangers decided to track Adrian's progress on the career hit list. For example, when I went to my first Rangers game of the year on June 24 and Adrian singled in the first, the scoreboard showed that he was only two hits behind the former Tigers great Charlie Gehringer. When Adrian got his 2,900th hit on August 24, I decided to officially start a countdown on Twitter. I knew he wouldn't get 100 hits in the last month, but every time he got a hit, I would find a tweet about the hit and retweet it with the line "#Beltre3000 Countdown: XX." I also wanted to take a video of a hit if I saw it in person and post the video, but unfortunately he went hitless in the next game that I went to on September 17.

2016 was also when I first gave thought about watching somebody reach 3,000 hit in person. That was the year that Ichiro Suzuki was chasing 3,000 hits. By then he was playing a mostly backup role with the Miami Marlins, but there were enough injuries to the starting outfielders that he got significant playing time. I had a friend Kevin who was a big Ichiro fan. He was taking a trip down to Miami in the end of July, and he talked about going to watch the game if Ichiro got close to see if he can watch the milestone. Well it just so happens that Ichiro got hit number 2,998 on July 28, in the first game of a four game series. I told Kevin about it and he went and got tickets for the July 29 game. Unfortunately, it was not to be. I followed along on GameDay, and saw that he lined into a double play, grounded out in the fourth and fifth, and struck out in the eighth. I encouraged Kevin to go to the next two games, but he declined. It was just as well, as he came up off the bench in those games and went hitless.

Ichiro then went hitless in three pinch-hit at bats against the Cubs, then hitless in the first game against the Rockies in Colorado. Then I saw that he got his 2,999th hit as a pinch-hit in the game on August 6. At that time I was in Temple in central Texas and I was enjoying a weekend off in between night float weeks. Denver was about 15 hours away from Temple. I debated whether or not I should drive to Colorado, watch the game and maybe the milestone, then drive back to Texas and sleep before starting night float again. I was debating up until Saturday night, when I watched Pompoko with friends. I ultimately decided not to, because I had done back to back overnight drives two other times, and I was miserable when coming back. And of course, Ichiro got his 3,000th hit that day.

Still, I knew it was only a matter of time when Adrian Beltre would get to 3,000 hits. He finished the season at 2,942 hits, only 58 hits away from 3,000. I thought it would be really cool if I got to watch him get to 3,000. After all, in six years with the Rangers he had turned himself into a Hometown Hero. He was voted one of the Franchise Four with the Rangers, and he ranked third overall in bWAr with the Rangers franchise. I looked up when he had gotten his 58th of the season from 2010 through 2016. There were some years where he got off to a hot start and got there early, and some year (namely 2015) when he got off to a brutal start and dealt with injuries and didn't get there until late. For the most part, he got his 58th hit usually in late May and early June. Even though it was only October, I decided to use most of my vacation days and take a two and half week period off from May 24 through June 11. I figured I'd be able to follow the team around the country and get a chance to see history.

The spring of 2017 featured the fourth edition of the World Baseball Classic. The World Baseball Classic started in 2006 as an international tournament in the same vein as soccer's World Cup. The big selling point for the WBC was that unlike all other international tournaments, it has the participation of Major League Players. The first two tournaments happened in 2006 and 2009, both of them were won by Japan. Afterwards it would be held every four years, so the third tournament happened in 2013. That year the Dominican Republic knocked off the reigning champions to capture the title. Adrian Beltre is proud of his Dominican heritage, and in fact still has a home in Santo Domingo where he stays in the off-season. He played in the first classic, but missed the next two, with his shoulder injury in 2009 and with a calf injury in 2013. Disappointed at missing the title, he was determined to play in the latest one to help the Dominican defend their title. However, while working out over the off-season he strained his left calf muscle again. It was thought that he would be out for three weeks and have to miss the early parts of the tournament, but he wasn't going to let his calves stop him again, and came back early to be present for the tournament. He struggled, getting only one hit and the Dominican never even made it out of the first round. With the Dominicans eliminated, Adrian went back to regular Rangers spring training. He felt like he was close to getting his swing back, but he injured his calves again, this time on the right side. Unable to bear weight on his right legs, the 2017 season started without Adrian Beltre.

Adrian stayed behind to rehabilitate his right calves. However, while running he aggravated it while jogging, and the Rangers knew this wasn't something that he was going to come back anytime soon. April soon went to May, and there was no signs of Adrian's return. I knew that I was not going to watch Adrian Beltre get his 3,000th hit during my vacation time. I decided that I would spend the time going around to different stadiums where I've never been. I went to see the Atlanta Braves' new stadium, then traveled north to watch the Philadelphia Phillies, the New York Yankees, and the New York Mets. Meanwhile the Rangers were playing inconsistently. They fell to last place, but then went on a 10-game winning streak to put them at second place. By then the Astros had played so well that the Rangers could only get to 6.5 games behind. During this time Adrian was finally making some progress on his rehab, and there was some hope that he could come back soon. On May 29, while I was watching the Mets play the Milwaukee Brewers (and I got my Funko Rainbow Dash figurine to pose with Ryan Braun, the third MVP winner she's met), Adrian was taking some fielding practice. He performed to a satisfactory level for manager Jeff Banister, and he was reactivated and placed in the starting lineup for that night's game against the Rays. I was getting ready to drive from New York back to my parents' house in Northern Virginia when I saw the news. While I was hoping to be counting down to zero by that time, I was counting down to 57. It was still progress.

The rest of my time on vacation was spent playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on my new Nintendo Switch or following Adrian Beltre's progress. (Well, there was also going to a protest in Washington DC and going to New York to meet two of my favorite My Little Pony voice actresses Andrea Libman and Ashleigh Ball on Randy Johnson's 300th Win Day.) I had made the decision to take the plunge and buy MLB.TV earlier in the season. The Rangers are normally within a blackout zone when I was in Texas, but being in Northern Virginia I was able to watch Adrian's plate appearances on my phone. Adrian was playing well in his return. He was getting only a hit or two per game, but at least he was getting a hit every game. The Rangers were playing the Washington Nationals in a three game series from June 9-11. I had to be back in Texas by the night of June 12 to

start a night float shift, and I wanted to get back in time for sleep, which meant I had to leave at least by June 10, which was also the day of my 10-year college reunion.

Still, that left June 9 as a day where I can go to the game. I decided to make a sign with "#Beltre3000 Countdown" and large numbers to be able to count down to 49, where he was by June 4. On June 6 the Rangers were playing the Mets. I was meeting with a friend, but still got done before the game started. I watched his first plate appearance, and he had an RBI groundout. He stepped on the bag improperly and inverted his left foot. He stayed in the game and even got a single for his 2,952nd hit, but had to leave the game in the sixth due to discomfort. He was expected to go on the DL for an ankle sprain. Upon hearing the news I figured I probably won't be getting to see Adrian play, so I printed out a slip of paper that says "On Hold" to put over the countdown numbers. Then on the other side I wrote "Get Well Soon Adrian Beltre."

I still went to the game on June 9, because I had bought a ticket on the first row on the third base side next to the visiting dugout right up against the field. Maybe at least he can see my sign. When I got down to my seat level I saw Adrian taking batting practice, and then fielding the ball. He looked pretty good for somebody with an ankle sprain. As he was leaving the field, he started signing autographs for people behind the dugout. I was at my seat next to the dugout, so I hurried over, but when I got there he was already finished. Bother. The game eventually started, and the seats were so close we could look inside the dugout. I was able to see Adrian sitting in the dugout wishing he could play. The other people around me saw my sign and saw Adrian and called out to him and told him to give me a ball. Adrian gave a little wave of acknowledgement but of course he was not going to give me a ball. I was an ugly little fucker who was reminding of of the fact he couldn't play. The Rangers ended up winning the game.

Adrian and Jeff Banister were both so optimistic about how Adrian performed during practice that he inserted him back in the lineup for the June 10 game. And of course during that time I was mingling with people from college two hours south of the stadium. Adrian got a hit in the game to put him at 2,953. After the reunion I met up with a brony friend Brendan and bought him a drink because it was his birthday. And then I set off for the 22-hour road trip back to Texas (it became 24 because of food and gas.) And then I had to start my night float. Adrian struggled a little bit after I had gotten back. He had a few hitless days as the batting average fell below .300. I was back in Texas so Rangers games were blacked out once again. The reason for this blackout was so the local sports channel could have exclusive broadcasting rights. Still, my co-worker Adam (a different Adam this time) was nice enough to let me know his Spectrum login information so I can watch games on the Fox Sports Go app.

Adrian's bat started heating up again in July, and by the time the All-Star Game rolled around, he was at 2,978 hits. I looked at the upcoming Rangers schedule, and while they started out with ten games on the road, they had a homestand that lasted from Monday July 24 through Wednesday August 2. If he averaged just a little over a hit a game, then he could get his milestone during that homestand. I may be able to see it after all. I was working until six from Monday through Saturday, and couldn't get to the game, but I was off Sunday and my schedule the last three days was light enough that I could get to the game. I wanted to wait to see how he'd do coming out of the gate. When he collected two hits in the first game after the All-Star Break, I knew it was time to spring into action. I purchased tickets off StubHub for the Sunday through Wednesday games. I got seats in the lower section of the upper deck, the place where I sat for the 2010 World Series, for the Monday through Wednesday games. I decided to splurge again and get seats close to the field along the home dugout for Sunday. I was all ready!

Adrian got nine more hits over the rest of the road trip, and stood at 2,989 on the way back to the homestand, just 11 hits away. On Monday, July 24, they started a four game series against the Miami Marlins. I was watching Hayao Miyazaki's 1989 masterpiece Majo no Takkyubin (Kiki's Delivery Service) on a theater in Waco, but I was going to the restroom frequently so I can check on the game. Adrian got singles in the first, the fourth, and the sixth. When he came up again in the ninth, the movie had ended and I was eating supper at a local steakhouse. I was following the game on GameDay because my phone was almost dead and I didn't want to use any more of my phone's battery. Adrian ended up hitting a ground ball single to the left side for his fourth hit of the game. It was his first four-hit game since August 19, 2016, and more importantly put him at 2,993 hits. I started getting worried that he could potentially get to the milestone on Saturday. I decided that once I get off at 6 on Saturday, I could drive up to the stadium to watch the game.

Adrian went hitless on Tuesday, July 25. However, he came back in a big way on Wednesday, July 26, a game that also featured one of the most bizarre moments in baseball history. He walked in the first, but then singled in the fourth, and doubled in the sixth and seventh. He came up in the eighth with a chance to get his second four-hit game in three days. The Rangers were down 18-6, but most of the fans were still in their seats to watch Adrian hit. The Rangers also had the bases loaded with two outs. In baseball, players getting ready to hit move onto the on-deck circle, where they can take practice swings and make mental preparations about the upcoming at-bat. Nowadays on-deck circles are a plastic circle that can be moved around. Most players have gradually started to stand away from the on-deck circle and more towards the center. Some say it's to avoid line drives. Others believe that they want to get a better look at the pitcher. It's become a relatively common practice. Adrian is one of those that stands closer to the center than others. Most of the time nobody gives a big deal, but on this date the second base umpire and crew chief called Adrian out and told him to get back on the on-deck circle. Adrian preferred his spot, but he also didn't want to disobey the umpire, so he decided to compromise. He walked over to the on-deck circle and dragged it to where he was standing. Most of the crowd were amused by the sight, but Davis was not, and he ejected Adrian on the spot. The whole stadium was shocked. Here was a future Hall of Fame player coming up in a crucial spot in the game while he's chasing a milestone. How could you eject somebody like that? Manager Jeff Banister came out to argue, but to no avail. The batter Nomar Mazara drove in two runs with a double, but Delino DeShields, the pinch-hitter that replaced the ejected Adrian flied to right to end the threat.

Adrian sat out the last game of the Marlins series, then came back in the Friday July 28 game. It was the last game where I can't go, and I was definitely keeping a close eye it. I had my sign with me and I was counting down with the game. If Adrian has another four hits I'd be toast. If he gets two or three hits then the hit could come on Saturday while I'm driving to the stadium. Of course he could also go into a prolonged slump, so I was hoping for one hit. He came up in the first inning with Mazara on second and grounded out. He came up in the third again with Mazara on second. This time he came through by knocking an RBI single to center field for hit number 2,997. In the fifth he came up once again with Mazara on second. Mazara advanced to third on a wild pitch, then Adrian drove him in with a single to left. It was hit number 2,998. I was watching the game with my co-worker Adam, and I was starting to freak out. He could potentially get two more plate appearances and get the job done tonight. He popped out in the seventh, and with the Rangers winning 8-2 there was no need to get to the bottom of the ninth.

I was safe for at least one day, but the next day was Saturday, and as mentioned I was scheduled to work until 6:00 in the evening. It took about two hours to get to the stadium, and by the time I'd get there it would be past 8:00 and it could be very likely Adrian would have had two plate appearances. Adam suggested that I could switch shifts with somebody. There was another resident that is usually more than willing to help, and I had helped him a few weeks earlier by driving him home after he finished a shift. I figured there was nothing to lose and texted the other resident. The only thing I told him was that there was something happening that was causing a lot of anxiety, and I offered to take one of his 24-hour shifts because it was on such short notice. Thankfully the other resident said yes. I now had a day free to travel to Arlington early and potentially watch Adrian Beltre's 3,000th hit.

Sources: Well, here we go again, another epic. I apologize if it is too dry, but I was mostly going off of my own personal experiences. Because I was going off of my own personal experiences, I didn't use much resources. Baseball Reference and MLB Video are always helpful as usual.